The helminth infracommunities of the wood mouse (**Apodemus sylvaticus**) two years after the fire in Mediterranean forests
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Helminthologia: acta scientiae internationalia
, p. 27-38
University of Antwerp
Parasites have been recognized as indicators for natural or man-induced environmental stress and perturbation. In this article, we investigated the role of two non-exclusive hypotheses on the response of helminths of wood mice to fire perturbation: 1) a reduction of the helminth infracommunity (species richness) in post-fire areas due to the temporal lack of worms with indirect (complex) life cycles linked to intermediate hosts that are more specialized than the final host, and 2) an increase of the abundance of helminths with direct (simple) life cycles as a response of increasing abundances of the final host, may be in stressful conditions linked to the post-fire recolonization process. We studied the helminth infracommunities of 97 wood mice in two recently burned plots (two years after the fire) and two control plots in Mediterranean forests of NE Spain. Species richness of helminths found in control plots (n = 14) was twice large than in burned ones (n = 7). Six helminth species were negatively affected by fire perturbation and were mainly or only found in unburned plots. Fire increased the homogeneity of helminth infracommunities, and burned plots were characterised by higher dominance, and higher parasitation intensity. We found a gradient of frequency of occurrence of helminth species according to life cycle complexity in burned areas, being more frequent monoxenous (66.6 %), than diheteroxenous (33.3 %) and triheteroxenous (0 %), confirming the utility of helminths as bioindicators for ecosystem perturbations. Despite the short period studied, our results pointed out an increase in the abundance and prevalence of some direct life cycle helminths in early postfire stages, whereas indirect life cycle helminths were almost absent. A mismatch between the final host (that showed a fast recovery shortly after the fire), and the intermediate hosts (that showed slow recoveries shortly after the fire), was responsible for the loss of half of the helminth species.