The drivers of avian-haemosporidian prevalence in tropical lowland forests of New Guinea in three dimensions

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Haemosporidians are among the most common parasites of birds and often negatively impact host fitness. A multitude of biotic and abiotic factors influence these associations, but the magnitude of these factors can differ by spatial scales (i.e., local, regional and global). Consequently, to better understand global and regional drivers of avian-haemosporidian associations, it is key to investigate these associations at smaller (local) spatial scales. Thus, here, we explore the effect of abiotic variables (e.g., temperature, forest structure, and anthropogenic disturbances) on haemosporidian prevalence and host–parasite networks on a horizontal spatial scale, comparing four fragmented forests and five localities within a continuous forest in Papua New Guinea. Additionally, we investigate if prevalence and host–parasite networks differ between the canopy and the understory (vertical stratification) in one forest patch. We found that the majority of Haemosporidian infections were caused by the genus Haemoproteus and that avian-haemosporidian networks were more specialized in continuous forests. At the community level, only forest greenness was negatively associated with Haemoproteus infections, while the effects of abiotic variables on parasite prevalence differed between bird species. Haemoproteus prevalence levels were significantly higher in the canopy, and an opposite trend was observed for Plasmodium. This implies that birds experience distinct parasite pressures depending on the stratum they inhabit, likely driven by vector community differences. These three-dimensional spatial analyses of avian-haemosporidians at horizontal and vertical scales suggest that the effect of abiotic variables on haemosporidian infections are species specific, so that factors influencing community-level infections are primarily driven by host community composition.

TidsskriftEcology and Evolution
Udgave nummer2
Antal sider14
StatusUdgivet - 2022

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© 2022 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

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