Parasites have been neglected from most biodiversity surveys even though they are an essential component of ecosystems and intimately associated with the free-living communities within them. Parasites with complex life cycles, such as digenean trematode flatworms, utilize at least two host species within an ecosystem for their development and transmission, taking advantage of species networks to complete their life cycles. Despite this knowledge, our understanding of the processes that contribute to parasite community assembly, and which limit their geographic distributions, are rudimentary, including the importance of host diversity. Utilizing recent advancements in the identification of cryptic trematode species through molecular barcoding, we examined patterns of community assembly involving 79 species in six Alberta lakes over three years. Specifically, we focused on spatiotemporal variation in trematode diversity within their snail first intermediate hosts (component communities), how this might relate to host diversity through the specificity of host-parasite relationships, and the role of certain environmental factors in structuring these communities. We found substantial natural fluctuations of trematode communities through space and time within these lakes. Trematode communities were diverse, showing an overall positive relationship with snail diversity, but were often dominated by a few common species. We found that ecoregion and lake trophic status were key predictors for the presence of these trematode species. Such information is key for understanding how biodiversity alterations may affect parasite community composition, as well as our ability to formulate predictive models, by considering how this could influence both species richness and evenness.

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