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Best practice guidelines for studies of parasite community ecology

Poulin, R.
Journal of helminthology 2019 v.93 no.1 pp. 8-11
analytical methods, guidelines, hosts, parasites, parasitology, species richness
In recent decades, parasite community ecology has produced hundreds of studies on an ever-growing number of host species, and developed into an active sub-discipline of parasitology. However, this growth has been characterized by a lack of standards in the practices used by researchers, with many common approaches being flawed, unjustified or misleading. Here, in the hope of promoting advances in the study of parasite community ecology, I identify some of the most common errors or weaknesses in past studies, and propose ten simple rules for best practice in the field. They cover issues including, among others, taxonomic resolution, proper and justifiable analytical methods, higher-level replication, controlling for sampling effort or species richness, accounting for spatial distances, using experimental approaches, and placing raw data in the public domain. While knowledge of parasite communities has expanded in breadth, with more and more host species being studied, true progress has been very limited with respect to our understanding of fundamental general processes shaping these communities. It is hoped that the guidelines presented here can direct researchers away from the entrenched use of certain approaches flawed in design, analysis or interpretation, by offering a more rigorous and standardized set of practices, and, hopefully, a way forward.