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Title: Parasite dynamics and community richness in a naturally fragmented water vole (Arvicola amphibious) metapopulation
Author: Davies, Claire Louise
ISNI:       0000 0004 5370 6939
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2014
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Fragmentation can drive local populations to become smaller and more isolated, and consequently more susceptible to extinction. Movement between patches, however, can interconnect such populations so that they effectively behave as larger and more stable metapopulations. Over the past two decades metapopulations have been used to shed light on the complex interactions that occur between hosts and parasites. Effectively every host can be considered as a discrete habitat patch from the perspective of a parasite. As such, host-parasite interactions naturally lend themselves to being examined within the metapopulation paradigm. In this thesis I examine empirically how various aspects of metapopulation structure, such as local host population size and landscape isolation/connectivity, combine to determine the extinction and recolonization dynamics of parasites in the landscape. Using a naturally fragmented water vole (Arvicola amphibious) metapopulation, I describe the spatial and temporal variation in parasite infection prevalence or burden in a Scottish landscape. I specifically address the spatial and temporal dynamics of both ectoparasites, and vectortransmitted microparasites, since these are two groups of parasites commonly found in natural systems yet often overlooked in the host-parasite metapopulation literature. In addition, I attempt to understand how specific parasite characteristics, such as transmission mode and infectious period, can influence how parasites respond to host population structure. In the final chapter, I bring together a number of parasite groups to examine the impact of metapopulation dynamics on parasite communities as a whole by investigating its impact of parasite community richness. Overall the findings of my study indicate that host spatial structure and the level of connectivity between patches are important factors that affect parasite dynamics and community richness. However, the exact level of connectivity required to sustain a parasite population locally depended on specific parasite characteristics. In contrast, local effects host/vector population size and patch infection history) had no discernible impact on most parasite groups.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Natural Environment Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Fragmented landscapes ; European water vole ; Host-parasite relationships ; Animal communities