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Parasite distribution and biodiversity: migration, niche construction and organization

Guest edited by Robert Bergquist, Norbert Brattig, David Rollinson, Xing-Quan Zhu, Xiao-Nong Zhou

A thematic series in Infectious Diseases of Poverty

biodiversity © Ms_Tali / Generated with AI /

Parasites are not only highly diverse species, but also very important for the ecology. However, they are also the least protected by ecosystem conservation efforts, which has recently become a topic of particular concern both in light of the accelerating rate of disease emergence and the growing recognition of the ecological significance of many parasites. Changes in environments and/or hosts leads to exposure to new selection pressures leading to new traits requiring niche construction, an activity that can provide insights into developments leading to the evolution of new host/parasite interactions.

Estimates of global biodiversity during the past 20 years mention between 3 and 10 million species, while only 1.4 million have been formally described. Obtaining reliable estimates of extant species is difficult, especially since many species may become extinct worldwide before having been classified and formally named. Parasites often have patchy spatial distributions and are hidden in hosts making them difficult to be detected and sampled resulting in poor knowledge of parasite diversity and distribution. These difficulties contribute to the typical absence of data on parasites in various situations, such as in ecological surveys, in indexing biological assessment, in food web studies, and in evaluations of animal extinction risks.

In line with global trends in parasite taxonomy, we launch a new thematic series entitled “Parasite distribution and biodiversity: migration, niche construction and organization”, which will focus on the parasite biodiversity inventory and assessment of the spatial distribution of parasites to promote actions for rational collection and conservation of parasite resources in today’s rapidly changing environmental climate. Additionally, the thematic series will review, but not be limited to, research advances on parasite spatial distribution, migration, invasion and traceability, in order to take stock of local parasite biodiversity and develop robust conservation initiatives based on regional risk of diseases transmission. In response to the further spread of tropical, parasitic diseases with the expansion and growth of the global economy, this topic also welcomes papers dealing with non-parasitic diseases such as yellow fever, dengue, Zika and other diseases with expanding distributions. We invite the submission of research articles, including scoping, systematics, overviews and narrative syntheses, as well as original studies on species discovery, classification, distribution, migration, niche construction and parasite origins.

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