Should we try to save parasites too?

Extinction of dependent species during translocation of threatened hosts

Recently we posed the question: “When we move a threatened plant species to a new site to improve its chances of survival, should we make a similar effort at moving the insects that live on that plant?” (see Decision Point #53). We recommended that conservation programs for threatened plants – such as  translocations, reintroductions, and seedbanks – should consider incorporating affiliated insect species. Insects that rely on plants are not, however, the only dependent species at risk of extinction through losing access to their hosts because of conservation efforts directed at that host. Parasites on animals may suffer a similar fate. We recently explored this issue through a series of case studies (Moir et al. 2012a).

So what should we do about parasites? To assist in determining whether the conservation of a host species benefits a dependent species (or the entire dependent assemblage), we formulated a decision protocol for conservation managers (Moir et al. 2012a).We used this protocol on a diversity of case studies including: New Zealand’s iconic tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus) and a lesswell- known host-specific tick species; the New Zealand Hihi bird (Notiomystis cincta) and an internal coccidian parasite; a global database of native cat species and their assemblages of parasites; and three threatened plant species from southwest Western Australia and their insect assemblages (Moir et al. 2012b)…

 

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