Rare inventory of trematode diversity in a protected natural reserve

In the face of ongoing habitat degradation and the biodiversity crisis, natural reserves are important refuges for wildlife. Since most free-living organisms serve as hosts to parasites, the diverse communities in protected areas can be expected to provide suitable habitats for a species-rich parasite fauna. However, to date, assessments of parasite diversity in protected nature reserves are rare. To expand our knowledge of parasite communities in natural habitats, we examined 1994 molluscs belonging to 15 species for trematode infections in a central European natural reserve. The parasitological examination revealed an overall prevalence of 17.3% and a total species richness of 40 trematode species. However, the parasite diversity and prevalence did not differ markedly from trematode communities in non-protected environments, which might be partly explained by a dilution effect caused by a high number of non-host organisms in our study system. The proportion of complex and long life cycles of parasites in the present study is high, indicating complex biotic interactions. We conclude that life cycle complexity, in addition to parasite diversity and trematode species richness, can provide valuable information on ecosystem health and should therefore be considered in future studies.


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