A remarkable new study claims that climate change threatens a third of the world's parasites, and that may actually be a very bad thing.
As we reported recently, a new study from scientists at the University of California has determined that climate change would wipe out a third of all parasitic species by the end of 2070. But while it may seem like a dream come true that the Earth would be rid of a large portion of ticks, fleas, lice, tapeworms, and other disgusting creatures, this would actually be quite devastating to our planet.
What most people don’t realize is just how important of a role parasites play in ecosystems. They help keep wildlife populations under control, and they keep the energy flowing throughout the food chain. Also, they are indicators of a healthy ecosystem, as parasites have complex life cycles that involve host species, so if there are parasites it’s a good indicator of a stable ecosystem with a healthy diversity of animals.
The challenge for scientists is to communicate to the public why this is such an important indicator about climate change, and yet another reason to take extra steps to fight global warming. Parasites face a significant risk over the next 50 years, scientists found, and it’s an important reminder that not only do individual species face extinction because of climate change, but also entire ecosystems.
“The Earth’s changing climate could cause the extinction of up to a third of its parasite species by 2070, according to a global analysis reported Sept. 6 in the journal Science Advances,” according to a statement from the Smithsonian. “Parasite loss could dramatically disrupt ecosystems, and the new study suggests that they are one of the most threatened groups of life on Earth.
“Parasites have an admittedly bad reputation. The diverse group of organisms includes tapeworms, roundworms, ticks, lice, fleas and other pests–most of which are best known for causing disease in humans, livestock and other animals. But parasites play important roles in ecosystems. They help control wildlife populations and keep energy flowing through food chains.”