UNTIE - UNravelling the role of emerging parasitic diseases in the structure and function of coastal communiTIEs and ecosystems




To recognize and examine the parasite-host system dynamics to better predict conservation threats to communities and ecosystems and maximize the success of disease outbreak monitoring and management.


While studies of how parasites influence host individuals or populations are numerous, assessments of parasite effects on specific host traits that can be related to ecosystem-level processes are rare. This is one of the fundamental limits in predicting parasite effects on ecosystems that will be overcome in this project using an innovative experimental approach. This work will further our understanding on the relationship between hosts and common parasitic infections, identifying effects of this ecological relationship in the structure of the community and the ecosystem functioning. The results of the presently proposed activities will allow assessment of the possible trematode prevalence impacts in the ecosystem with evaluation of the consequences for the community and the system health with identification of conditions that lead to high disease risk, consequent mortality episodes, and disruption of the ecosystem services provided by a healthy system. Studies that can characterize the broader ecological roles of parasites are increasingly important because their effects on hosts in both natural and aquaculture systems are in flux. UNTIE findings will help decision making related to disease monitoring and management within trans-Atlantic coastal zones regarding national reserves management policies, fisheries sustainability, and aquaculture governance.