Parasites, ecosystems and sustainability:an ecological and complex systems perspective
Pierre Horwitza,*, Bruce A. Wilcoxb
aConsortium for Health and Ecology, Edith Cowan University, 100 Joondalup Drive, Joondalup, WA 6027, Australia
bAsia-Pacific Institute for Tropical Medicine and Infectious Diseases, John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawaii, Honolulu 96822, Hawaii
Received 20 December 2004; received in revised form 16 March 2005; accepted 16 March 2005
Host–parasite relationships can be conceptualised either narrowly, where the parasite is metabolically dependent on the host, or more
broadly, as suggested by an ecological–evolutionary and complex systems perspective. In this view Host–parasite relationships are part of a
larger set of ecological and co-evolutionary interdependencies and a complex adaptive system. These interdependencies affect not just the
hosts, vectors, parasites, the immediate agents, but also those indirectly or consequentially affected by the relationship. Host–parasite
relationships also can be viewed as systems embedded within larger systems represented by ecological communities and ecosystems. So
defined, it can be argued that Host–parasite relationships may often benefit their hosts and contribute significantly to the structuring of
ecological communities. The broader, complex adaptive system view also contributes to understanding the phenomenon of disease
emergence, the ecological and evolutionary mechanisms involved, and the role of parasitology in research and management of ecosystems in
light of the apparently growing problem of emerging infectious diseases in wildlife and humans. An expanded set of principles for integrated
parasite management is suggested by this perspective.
q 2005 Australian Society for Parasitology Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.