Measuring biodiversity is difficult. This has led to efforts to seek taxa whose species richness correlates with the species richness of other taxa. Such indicator taxa could then reduce the time and cost of assessing the biodiversity of the more extensive community. The search for species richness correlations has yielded mixed results, however. This may be primarily because of the lack of functional relationships between the taxa studied. Trematode parasites are highly promising bioindicators. Diverse assemblages of larval trematode parasites are easily sampled in intermediate host snails. Through their life cycles these parasites are functionally coupled with the surrounding free-living diversity of vertebrate and invertebrate animals. It has been shown that larval trematodes in snails correlate positively with bird diversity and abundance. Here, we explore whether trematodes also correlate with standard measures of fishes, and large and small benthos, for 32 sites in three wetlands. We found associations between trematodes and benthic communities that were not consistent across wetlands. The associations were, however, consistently positive for large benthic species richness and density. Some of the contrasting associations between trematode and benthos may be explained by negative associations between large and small benthos. We found no associations with fish communities (probably because of the inadequacy of standard "snapshot" sampling methods for highly mobile fishes). The results support further exploration of trematodes as bioindicators of diversity and abundance of animal communities. ?? 2006 Springer-Verlag.
Additional publication details
Can parasites be indicators of free-living diversity? Relationships between species richness and the abundance of larval trematodes and of local benthos and fishes