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Parasite prevalence increases with temperature in an avian metapopulation in northern Norway

Holand, H., Jensen, H., Kvalnes, T., Tufto, J., Pärn, H., Sæther, B-E., Ringsby, T. H.
Parasitology 2019 v.146 no.8 pp. 1030-1035
North Atlantic Oscillation, birds, climate, global warming, host-parasite relationships, hosts, parasites, temperature, winter, Norway
Climate and weather conditions may have substantial effects on the ecology of both parasites and hosts in natural populations. The strength and shape of the effects of weather on parasites and hosts are likely to change as global warming affects local climate. These changes may in turn alter fundamental elements of parasite–host dynamics. We explored the influence of temperature and precipitation on parasite prevalence in a metapopulation of avian hosts in northern Norway. We also investigated if annual change in parasite prevalence was related to winter climate, as described by the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). We found that parasite prevalence increased with temperature within-years and decreased slightly with increasing precipitation. We also found that a mild winter (positive winter NAO index) was associated with higher mean parasite prevalence the following year. Our results indicate that both local and large scale weather conditions may affect the proportion of hosts that become infected by parasites in natural populations. Understanding the effect of climate and weather on parasite–host relationships in natural populations is vital in order to predict the full consequence of global warming.