Data from the 110 NERRS monitoring stations supports research around the country. Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Reserves.
A warming world could have a chilling effect on the relationship between parasites and their hosts, according to a recent study from the University of Georgia. The research—which relied on System-Wide Monitoring Data (SWMP) from Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island to Florida’s Guana Tolomato Matanzas Reserve—found that a rise of 2 degrees Celsius could be enough to cause a parasite to die out locally as infected hosts are not able to survive at the higher temperature. (The study focused on flatback mud crabs and parasitic barnacles.)
“Most organisms are infected by some parasite, and many populations will have a large proportion infected in this system, up to 30 to 40 percent,” said lead author Alyssa Gehman, who appreciated “the easily available, clean, and accurate environmental data provided by the NERRS. It enabled me to do research quickly and effectively.”
Gehman’s work focused on Georgia, where she measured thermal performance of the host and parasite and combined that information with epidemiological models. “The long-term, continuous temperature data from the NERRS enabled me to expand our model runs throughout the coastal Southeastern U.S. and to further highlight areas at risk of either increased or decreased parasite infection along the Atlantic coastline.”