Effects of agricultural landscape and pesticides on parasitism in native bullfrogs
King KC., Daniel Mclaughlin J., Boily M., Marcogliese DJ.
Native amphibian populations are shrinking worldwide, and both parasitic infections and environmental stress from agriculture have been implicated. We investigated the principal hypothesis that environmental by-products of agricultural activity mediate parasitism in native frogs. Bullfrogs were collected from wetlands with variable landscape disturbance and water quality and examined for helminth parasites. We predicted that pesticide pollution and landscape development would be significant factors shaping the parasite communities and populations. Parasite diversity and species richness were lower in wetlands impacted by both pesticides and land use. Two parasite groups, direct life-cycle nematodes and echinostomes, were common in polluted habitats, potentially increasing frog pathology and mortality risk. In areas with agricultural landscape and reduced forest cover, parasite diversity and species richness were low, perhaps because of less parasite transmission from birds and mammals. This result suggests that land development limits terrestrial vertebrate access to wetlands. Our results indicate that parasite abundance and community structure in wetlands are influenced by factors operating locally within the wetland and more broadly in the surrounding landscape. We suggest that parasite communities in amphibians are effective indicators of ecosystem health and animal biodiversity, and thus useful tools for conservation biology. Crown Copyright © 2009.