Parasite and nutrient enrichment effects on Daphnia interspecific competition

Ellen Decaestecker, Dino Verreydt, Luc De Meester, Steven A.J. Declerck

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Increased productivity due to nutrient enrichment is hypothesized to affect density-dependent processes, such as transmission success of horizontally transmitting parasites. Changes in nutrient availability can also modify the stoichiometry and condition of individual hosts, which may affect their susceptibility for parasites as well as the growth conditions for parasites within the host. Consequently, if not balanced by increased host immuno-competence or life history responses, changes in the magnitude of parasite effects with increasing nutrient availability are expected. If these parasite effects are host species specific, this may lead to shifts in the host community structure. We here used the Daphnia-parasite model system to study the effect of nutrient enrichment on parasite-mediated competition in experimental mesocosms. In the absence of parasites, D. magna was competitively dominant to D. pulex at both low and high nutrient levels. Introduction of parasites resulted in infections of D. magna, but not of D. pulex and as such reversed the competitive hierarchy between these two species. Nutrient addition resulted in an increased prevalence and infection intensity of some of the parasites on D. magna. However, there was no evidence that high nutrient levels enhanced negative effects of parasites on the hosts. Costs associated with parasite infections may have been compensated by better growth conditions for D. magna in the presence of high nutrient levels.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1421-1430
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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