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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: AVIAN GENOMIC AND IMMUNOLOGIC APPROACHES FOR CONTROLLING MUCOSAL PATHOGENS Title: Climate Change and Infectious Diseases in Wildlife

Authors
item Kutz, Susan - UNI OF CALGARY ALBERTA,CA
item Schock, Danna - UNI OF CALGARY ALBERTA,CA
item Brook, Ryan - UNI OF CALGARY ALBERTA,CA
item Hoberg, Eric

Submitted to: The Wildlife Professional
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: August 1, 2008
Publication Date: September 17, 2008
Citation: Kutz, S., Schock, D., Brook, R., Hoberg, E.P. 2008. Cimate change and infectious diseases in wildlife. The Wildlife Professional. Fall Issue: 42-46.

Interpretive Summary: Directional climate change in the form of short-term ephemeral events (weather extremes) and longer term climatic trends is leading to novel biological communities and shifts in host-pathogen interactions and the distribution of diseases. The impacts of climate change on infectious disease in free-ranging and domestic hosts including ungulates are multi-scale, complex, and interactive. Importantly, these impacts will not be uniform across geographic regions or across host or pathogen taxa. Pathogens play important roles in host population biology and consequently, can threaten conservation, sustainable management programs and agriculture. Host-pathogen systems are complex and are further complicated by the fact that climate change can act on all components of a system. Recognition of these issues has led to development of international collaborations and growing interest in the impacts of climate on wildlife diseases. Evident here are concerns about zoonotic diseases (diseases caused by pathogens that infect humans as well as other animals) and pathogens that are transmitted among wildlife species and livestock or aquaculture species. Advancing our understanding of the role of climate change in wildlife diseases is imperative to recognizing and responding to the impacts into a broader ecological and economic context. An understanding of potential impacts that emerges from accurate taxonomic information, data for geographic and host distribution, and biological collections ultimately establishes a foundation to anticipate and mitigate undesirable impacts of climate change. Using such integrated information on wildlife, associated managed systems and domesticated hosts contributes to broader programs to ensure the continuity of important components of our ecosystems and food resources.

Technical Abstract: A large and growing body of scientific evidence indicates the Earth’s climate is changing, and the recent International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) declared that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level.” Effects have already been seen in biological systems, including range shifts toward higher latitudes and elevations, and changes in phenology in temperate and arctic regions. Dynamics of infectious disease will also be affected by climate change, and it appears that some risks in humans are already changing. In some cases, risks are changing because the ranges of pathogens (and/or their vectors) are shifting, and in others, because land uses are changing in response to weather patterns. The breadth and depth of information available for wildlife pathogens, and therefore impacts of climate change on disease dynamics, is considerably smaller than for human pathogens. However, there is growing interest in the impacts of climate on wildlife diseases, driven largely by concerns about zoonotic diseases (diseases caused by pathogens that infect humans as well as other animals) and pathogens that are transmitted among wildlife species and livestock or aquaculture species. Pathogens play important roles in host population biology and consequently, can threaten conservation, sustainable management programs and agriculture. Host-pathogen systems are complex and are further complicated by the fact that climate change can act on all components of a system. In this article we present case studies that highlight ways climate change may affect infectious diseases in wildlife. We follow the case studies with a brief discussion of key deficits in our understanding of, and approaches to, wildlife diseases that ultimately limit our ability to anticipate and mitigate undesirable impacts of climate change on wildlife and associated managed systems and domesticated hosts.

Last Modified: 10/25/2014