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New studies show how to save parasites and why it’s important by Michelle Ma August 03,2020   |  Source: UW News

Parasites have a public relations problem.

Unlike the many charismatic mammals, fishes and birds that receive our attention (and our conservation dollars), parasites are thought of as something to eradicate — and certainly not something to protect.

But only 4% of known parasites can infect humans, and the majority actually serve critical ecological roles, like regulating wildlife that might otherwise balloon in population size and become pests. Still, only about 10% of parasites have been identified and, as a result, they are mostly left out of conservation activities and research.

An international group of scientists wants to change that. About a dozen leading parasite ecologists, including University of Washington’s Chelsea Wood, published a paper Aug. 1 in the journal Biological Conservation, which lays out an ambitious global conservation plan for parasites.

“Parasites are an incredibly diverse group of species, but as a society, we do not recognize this biological diversity as valuable,” said Wood, an assistant professor in the UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. “The point of this paper is to emphasize that we are losing parasites and the functions they serve without even recognizing it.”

The authors propose 12 goals for the next decade

 

© 2020 University of Washington | Seattle, WA

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