Untangling the drivers of parasite diversity along gradients of natural and anthropogenic variables in a tropical crater-lake system (Kasenda, Uganda).

01 October 2018 → 31 December 2022
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Natural sciences
    • Animal biology
parasite diversity
Project description

Biodiversity loss caused by human activities threatens the capacity of ecosystems worldwide to provide essential ecological services. Hence, a growing effort is directed at understanding the consequences of anthropogenic disturbances for biodiversity. Parasitic organisms have so far been widely overlooked in this effort, even though parasitism is the most common feeding strategy on Earth. One group of parasites with high societal relevance are the trematodes, flatworms utilizing snails as intermediate hosts to infect vertebrate species, including humans, as final host. Trematodes cause important human diseases such as schistosomiasis, a tropical disease affecting more than 200 million people. This project will document the patterns and processes governing the local and regional diversity of trematodes infecting the hosts of schistosomiasis - Bulinus and Biomphalaria snails - in a crater-lake district in western Uganda which bridges the temperature threshold of schistosomiasis infection. As these lakes cover a wide gradient of human-impact intensity, from being heavily exploited for agriculture to being protected in a national park, this crater-lake system represents a natural laboratory to analyze the impact of both natural and anthropogenic environmental variation on trematode diversity within and among lakes. In order to
tackle existing difficulties in detecting and identifying trematode infections in snails, an innovative and sensitive molecular tool will be developed.