Published online by Cambridge University Press: 08 May 2019
In birds, vector-borne parasites invading the bloodstream are important agents of disease, affect fitness and shape population viability, thus being of conservation interest. Here, we molecularly identified protozoan blood parasites in two populations of the threatened Aquatic Warbler Acrocephalus paludicola, a migratory passerine nesting in open marsh. We explored whether prevalence and lineage diversity of the parasites vary by population and whether infection status is explained by landscape metrics of habitat edge and individual traits (body mass, fat score, wing length and sex). Aquatic Warblers were infected by genera Plasmodium, Leucocytozoon and Trypanosoma, with seven, one and four lineages, and 29.9, 0.7 and 12.5% prevalence, respectively. No Haemoproteus infections were detected. Prevalence did not vary between the populations, but lineage diversity was higher in Polesie than in Biebrza for all the lineages pooled and for Plasmodium. Infection by Trypanosoma decreased with patch core area and increased with density of habitat edge. Infection status was not predicted by the individual traits. Our study is the first to show an association between edge-related landscape features and blood parasitism in an open habitat bird. This finding will support informed conservation measures for avian species of the globally shrinking marshland and other treeless habitats.