Skip to main content
ARS Home » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #207288


item Brooks, Daniel
item Hoberg, Eric

Submitted to: Trends in Parasitology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/12/2007
Publication Date: 12/24/2007
Citation: Brooks, D., Hoberg, E.P. 2007. How will global climate change affect parasites? Trends in Parasitology. 23: 571-574.

Interpretive Summary: : The human population is growing, it is on the move and daily it is deepening its technological footprint on this planet. Human activity directly influences global climate. Introducing ourselves and other species into novel regions of the biosphere accelerates landscape alteration and ecological perturbation, leading to potentially irrevocable changes in biotic structure. Parasites and pathogens are integral components of the biosphere and the emergence of disease attributable to these organisms is predicted to expand as a consequence of climate warming and ecological change. If we are experiencing global climate change that will have a prolonged duration, we should expect an increase in emerging infectious diseases (EID). There is reason to be concerned about an EID crisis and our preparedness to handle it in a timely and cost-effective manner. The potential risk space is geographically and biologically extensive, and climate change will make more of it accessible to more parasites. As a result, the planet is an evolutionary minefield of EID into which millions of people wander daily. We need to do two things. First, we need to integrate the parasite-centred perspective into strategic planning by public, veterinary and wildlife health specialists who battle on the front lines of the EID crisis. Second, we need to monitor shifts in host associations mediated by ecological fitting and climate change so we can assess the rate of change in the potential risk space assessed against archival collections and established baselines. Doing this will require support for taxonomic and systematic infrastructure - people, inventories, collections, and information. Taxonomy and systematics provide the arena for proactive activities dealing with EID, and it is critical to understand that without

Technical Abstract: : Parasites are integral components of complex biotic assemblages that comprise the biosphere. Host switching correlated with episodic climate-change events are common in evolutionary and ecological time. Global climate change produces ecological perturbation, manifested in major geographical/phenological shifts, and alteration in transmission dynamics. This increases the potential for host switching. The intersection of climate change and evolutionary conservative aspects of host specificity and transmission dynamics, known as ecological fitting, results in increased emergence of parasites/pathogens/diseases through mechanisms involving (1) numerical/functional responses and (2) changes in the arena of association, without evolutionary changes in host utilization capabilities.