A latest study led by a group of researchers from the University of California, Berkeley has found that climate change may erase a third of all parasite species from the face of the Earth by the end of 2070.
Climate change might cause one-third of all parasites to go extinct by the year 2070, scientists say. However, parasites like ticks, fleas, lice, and tapeworms play a vital role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem. They contribute major role in controlling the population of wildlife, and they keep the energy flowing throughout the food chain. The decline in parasite population could dramatically upset the balance of natural ecosystems.
On the other hand, having parasites indicates that the ecosystem has been stable.
“It means the system has a diversity of animals in it and that conditions have been consistent long enough for these complex associations to develop”.
For the study, a team of 17 researchers from eight countries analysed specimens of different parasites and tried to get better insights of their habitat. What study authors found was mind boggling as they believe that changing climatic conditions will wipe out almost a third species of parasites by 2070.
The study was completed with help from the U.S. National Parasite Collection, along with specialized information on fleas, ticks, bee mites and feather mites.
To find out how climate change is likely to affect the survival of a wide range of parasite species, Carlson and colleagues turned to museum collections. Researchers also used climate forecasts to determine its effect on 457 species of parasites.
Due to their bad reputation, parasites are often overlooked or ignored in climate change studies. The most optimistic models predicted a loss of about 10 per cent.
“[Slowing climate change] has a really profound impact on extinction rates, but even in the best-case scenario, we’re still looking at fairly major global changes”, Carlson said.
It is the consensus of the researchers that parasites need to be included in conversations about conservation, given their delicate position in complex ecosystems as the study shows.
“Parasites seem like one of the most threatened groups on Earth”, Carlson told The Guardian.
A parasite, in essence, is any organism that makes its living off another organism (like bedbugs, leeches, vampire fish and even mistletoe).
“Parasites are obviously a hard sell”, said Carlson.