Fine-scale variation within urban landscapes affects marking patterns
and gastrointestinal parasite diversity in red foxes.
1. Urban areas are often considered to be a hostile environment for
wildlife as they are highly fragmented and frequently disturbed.
However, these same habitats can contain abundant resources, while
lacking many common competitors and predators. The urban environment can
have a direct impact on the species living there, but can also have
indirect effects on their parasites and pathogens. To date, relatively
few studies have measured how fine-scale spatial heterogeneity within
urban landscapes can affect parasite transmission and persistence. 2.
Here we surveyed 237 greenspaces across the urban environment of
Edinburgh (UK) to investigate how fine-scale variation in socio-economic
and ecological variables can affect red fox (Vulpes vulpes) marking
behaviour, gastrointestinal (GI) parasite prevalence and parasite
community diversity, 3. We found that the presence and abundance of red
fox faecal markings was non-uniformly distributed across greenspaces,
and instead was dependent on the ecological characteristics of a site.
Specifically, common foraging areas were left largely unmarked, which
indicates that suitable resting and denning sites may be limiting factor
in urban environments. In addition, the amount of greenspace around each
site was positively correlated with overall GI parasite prevalence,
species richness and diversity, highlighting the importance of
greenspace (a commonly used measure of landscape connectivity) in
determining the composition of the parasite community in urban areas. 4.
Our results suggest that fine scale variation within urban environments
can be important for understanding the ecology of infectious diseases in
urban wildlife and could have wider implication for the management of