The role of the urban environment in shaping parasite communities of red foxes in Edinburgh

Tue10  Apr09:30am(15 mins)
Where:
Stream 4 - Edward Llwyd 0.01

Authors

L V Gecchele1; A B Pedersen1; M Bell1
1 The University of Edinburgh, UK

Discussion

Urbanisation affects both the abiotic and biotic properties of ecosystems and have a profound impact on ecological processes.  Although urban areas have green spaces that provide habitat for wildlife, these areas are often highly fragmented and frequently disturbed. Urban environments can also have high availability of resources and lack many common competitors and predators, which can positively impact wildlife species. Urban environments can be particularly challenging for carnivore species, given the high rate of conflict with humans. While many studies have focused on how the urban environment can directly affect the ecology of wildlife species, much less is known about how urban habitats affect species interactions, specifically between hosts and their parasite communities. Previous research has shown that urban environment can have an effect on parasite prevalence and species richness of carnivores; however most of these studies have not taken into account the spatial heterogeneity of urban environments, which can be important for parasite transmission and persistence.

Here we investigate how fine-scale variation in urban environment influences gastrointestinal parasite infection risk and community structure in the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) population across the city of Edinburgh. We surveyed all green spaces across the city to determine the influence of both socio-economic and ecological variables on parasite prevalence and diversity. We found that the presence and abundance of fox faecal samples was non-uniformly distributed; ecological, rather than socio-economic, variables such as the size of the green area and the presence of other wildlife were significant predictors of scat deposition patterns in urban foxes. In addition, the presence of roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) was positively correlated with the parasite species richness of specific sites. These results highlight the importance of “pockets of wilderness” within urban areas for wild foxes and could have wider implication for the management of urban carnivores.

Schedule

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British Society for Parasitology (BSP)
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