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Ecohealth
Diseases in animal, plant and public health domain, including zoonotic infectious and non-communicable diseases, moderated by ecosystems.
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Earth-Friendly Diet Campaign Urges Americans to "Take Extinction Off Your Plate" - Living Green Magazine

Earth-Friendly Diet Campaign Urges Americans to "Take Extinction Off Your Plate" - Living Green Magazine | Ecohealth | Scoop.it
As growing global meat consumption drives accelerating deforestation, drought and other threats to endangered species, the Center for Biological Diversity launched a new campaign today urging Americans to “take extinction off your plate.” The campaign says eating less meat is one of the best ways people can reduce their environmental footprint. “Many people don’t realize the devastating toll meat production has on wildlife and the planet,” said Stephanie Feldstein, population and sustainability director at the Center. “The livestock industry has nearly driven animals like wolves extinct, and it’s responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than cars, trains and airplanes combined.” The new campaign website, www.TakeExtinctionOffYourPlate.com, features information about the impact of meat consumption on wildlife, the climate, habitat, water and land. It also includes resources to help people adopt an Earth-friendly diet and a pledge asking people to commit to reducing their meat consumption. According to the “Earth-friendly Diet Pledge,” cutting just one-third of the meat from your diet can save as much as 340,667 gallons of water, more than 4,000 square feet of land, and the greenhouse gas equivalent of driving 2,700 fewer miles a year. Read more at http://livinggreenmag.com/2014/04/10/people-solutions/earth-friendly-diet-campaign-urges-americans-take-extinction-plate/#dcGDw35rHr6KOjaF.99
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Early warning system for epidemics: Risk map correlates environmental, health data

Early warning system for epidemics: Risk map correlates environmental, health data | Ecohealth | Scoop.it
The environment has an impact on our health. Preventing epidemics relies on activating the right counter-measures, and scientists are now trying to find out how better use of forecasting can help. The EU's EO2HEAVEN project developed a risk map for correlating environmental and health data in order to identify where a disease may break out next. The concept will be on show at Booth E40 in Hall 9 of the CeBIT trade fair in Hannover. Cholera has been all but eradicated in Europe, but this bacterial, primarily waterborne disease still claims thousands of lives in Africa every year. Scientists are examining the effects various environmental factors have on cholera epidemics in Uganda. As part of this work, the Fraunhofer Institute of Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation IOSB in Karlsruhe developed a software architecture for early warning systems that compares environmental and health data and presents the results graphically. "This allowed us to visualize the complex relationships between these factors for the first time on risk maps, leading to a better understanding of the processes," explains project coordinator Dr. Kym Watson. The scientists use sensors to measure environmental parameters such as rainfall, exposure to solar radiation and pH value, as well as temperature and concentration of nutrients in the water. Weather and climate forecasts are also factored into the analysis. At the same time, they use mobile applications to collect health data on cholera cases from hospitals and doctors, such as where patients have been and what their symptoms are. This data .......
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UN News - Surge in animal-human diseases calls for more holistic approach to health, UN reports

UN News - Surge in animal-human diseases calls for more holistic approach to health, UN reports | Ecohealth | Scoop.it
About 70 per cent of new diseases infecting humans in recent decades have come from animals, the United Nations food agency today reported, warning that it is getting easier for diseases jump species and spread as the population, agriculture and food-supply chains grow. The ongoing expansion of agricultural lands into wild areas, coupled with a worldwide boom in livestock production, means that “livestock and wildlife are more in contact with each other, and we ourselves are more in contact with animals than ever before,” said Ren Wang, UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Assistant Director-General for Agriculture and Consumer Protection. “What this means is that we cannot deal with human health, animal health, and ecosystem health in isolation from each other - we have to look at them together, and address the drivers of disease emergence, persistence and spread, rather than simply fighting back against diseases after they emerge,” he added. According to the report, ‘World Livestock 2013: Changing Disease Landscapes,’ a new, more holistic approach to managing disease threats is needed. Since the 1940’s, a majority of the infectious diseases that have emerged in humans since the 1940s can be traced back to wildlife. For instance, it is likely that the SARS virus emerging in humans was first transmitted by bats to masked palm civets and eventually spilled over to humans via animal markets. In other cases, the opposite occurs - livestock introduce pathogens into natural areas, affecting wildlife health. The report focuses on how changes in the way humans raise and trade animals have affected how diseases emerge and spread. Globalization and climate change are redistributing pathogens, vectors, and hosts, and pandemic risks to humans caused by pathogens of animal origin present a major concern. Meanwhile, food safety hazards and antibiotic resistance are on the increase worldwide.
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Dingo parasite causes concern for indigenous communities

Dingo parasite causes concern for indigenous communities | Ecohealth | Scoop.it
Researchers have warned that indigenous communities could be at risk of infection after they discovered the first report of a particular parasite in dingoes in far north Queensland. Wildlife health is an important and growing, yet often overlooked, component of the conservation of wild species. Just like humans and domestic animals, wildlife are susceptible to intra- and inter-species diseases that can cause morbidity (the number of individuals in poor health in a given time period) and mortality. In natural robust or resilient populations, this is just part and parcel of life, and in some species important in natural population control or for contributing to population genetic health. Regrettably this situation is becoming increasingly rare with human-induced global change including loss of populations and even species. Many of the drivers of biodiversity loss, such as habitat loss and degradation and overexploitation of species, may put wildlife at increased risk of disease spread through various stressors and from new contact with other populations, other species or environmental pollutants. Several recent wildlife health concerns have been widely documented and have required extensive efforts for disease prevention and control. .....
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Snail fever expected to decline in Africa due to climate change

The dangerous parasite Schistosoma mansoni that causes snail fever in humans could become significantly less common in the future a new international study led by researchers from the University of Copenhagen predicts. The results are surprising because they contradict the general assumption that climate change leads to greater geographical spread of diseases. The explanation is that the parasite's host snails stand to lose suitable habitat due to climate change. "Our research shows that the expected effects of climate change will lead to a reduction in suitable habitats for four out of five species of host snails for the parasite. According to our models, several areas will become too hot for the snails in the future and new precipitation patterns will affect the freshwater areas where they live", says postdoc Anna -Sofie Stensgaard from the Danish National Research Foundation Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at the University of Copenhagen. Schistosomiasis is an infectious disease caused by parasitic flatworms of the genus Schistosoma.They infect humans by penetrating the skin when in contact with water. They spread in freshwater areas such as rivers and lakes where fresh water snails act as intermediate host for the parasite's larvae. Therefore, the snails' habitats are of great importance for the spread of the disease. Up to 19 % reduction in infectious areas The researchers modeled the changes in snail habitat from today to 2080 under various climate change scenarios, and what that will mean for the spread of the parasite. The forecasts show up to 19 % reduction in the total geographical area of infection risk in Africa, as the geographical distribution of the main host snail will be reduced significantly. "Our results are consistent with the scientific view that climate change leads to lower biodiversity, but not that climate change necessarily leads to a greater spread of diseases", Anna -Sofie Stensgaard explains about the study that has just been published in the scientific journal Acta Tropica........
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Crop-infecting virus forces aphids to spread disease

Viruses alter plant biochemistry in order to manipulate visiting aphids into spreading infection. University of Cambridge researchers have shown that viruses use aphids as pawns, discouraging the insects from permanently settling on already-infected crops and using this forced migration to spread infection to healthy vegetation. Aphids are sap-sucking insects that attack many different types of plants and are major transmitters of crop-infecting viruses. By altering plant biochemistry, crop-infecting viruses cause vegetation to smell and taste unpleasant to visiting aphids. This repels the insects, causing them to move swiftly away to healthier plants, unwittingly transporting and spreading the virus. This BBSRC-funded research could have significant impact on African agriculture. Working with various agencies, Dr John Carr and colleagues aim to help resource-poor farmers by deploying plants to act as aphid-decoys, drawing the insects away from crucial crops and halting the spread of infection through these farmers' livelihoods......
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Why wildlife health is important for conservation - IUCN International

Why wildlife health is important for conservation - IUCN International | Ecohealth | Scoop.it
By Catherine Machalaba, Programme Officer with the Wildlife Health Specialist Group of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission. Wildlife health is an important and growing, yet often overlooked, component of the conservation of wild species. Just like humans and domestic animals, wildlife are susceptible to intra- and inter-species diseases that can cause morbidity (the number of individuals in poor health in a given time period) and mortality. In natural robust or resilient populations, this is just part and parcel of life, and in some species important in natural population control or for contributing to population genetic health. Regrettably this situation is becoming increasingly rare with human-induced global change including loss of populations and even species. Many of the drivers of biodiversity loss, such as habitat loss and degradation and overexploitation of species, may put wildlife at increased risk of disease spread through various stressors and from new contact with other populations, other species or environmental pollutants. Several recent wildlife health concerns have been widely documented and have required extensive efforts for disease prevention and control. Over 100 wild species are known to be susceptible to rabies virus, and it has caused significant die-offs of endangered African Wild Dogs (Lycaon pictus) and Ethiopian Wolf (Canis simensis)...........
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Rising concerns over tree pests and diseases

Rising concerns over tree pests and diseases | Ecohealth | Scoop.it
New research has found that the number of pests and disease outbreaks in trees and forests across the world has been increasing. The review "The consequences of Tree Pests and Diseases for Ecosystem Services" by scientists from the universities of Southampton, Cambridge, Oxford and St Andrews is published today (15 November) in the journal Science. The research shows that the experience of widespread death of trees, similar to that seen from Dutch elm disease and with the arrival last year of the new fungal disease of ash -- Chalara fraxinea -- has not been unique to the UK. Furthermore, there is growing concern that aspects of globalisation -- in particular, high volumes and new forms of trade -- may increase the risk of disease spreading and provide opportunities for genetic reassortment which can enhance pathogenicity (the ability of an organism to cause disease). Trees and forests provide a wide variety of ecosystem* services in addition to timber, food, and other provisioning services, such as carbon sequester and storage, reducing flood risk and leisure use. The researchers say that new approaches to pest and disease management are needed that take into account these multiple services and the different stakeholders they benefit, as well as the likelihood of greater threats in the future resulting from globalisation and climate change.......
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The Toxins That Affected Your Great-Grandparents Could Be In Your Genes

The Toxins That Affected Your Great-Grandparents Could Be In Your Genes | Ecohealth | Scoop.it
Biologist Michael Skinner has enraged the chemical community and shocked his peers with his breakthrough research Michael Skinner’s biggest discovery began, as often happens in science stories like this one, with a brilliant failure. Back in 2005, when he was still a traditional developmental biologist and the accolades and attacks were still in the future, a distraught research fellow went to his office to apologize for taking an experiment one step too far. In his laboratories at Washington State University, she and Skinner had exposed pregnant rats to an endocrine disruptor—a chemical known to interfere with fetal development—in the hope of disturbing (and thereby gaining more insight into) the process by which an unborn fetus becomes either male or female. But the chemical they used, an agricultural fungicide called vinclozolin, had not affected sexual differentiation after all. The scientists did find lower sperm counts and decreased fertility when the male offspring reached adulthood, but that was no surprise. The study seemed like a bust. By accident, though, Skinner’s colleague had bred the grandchildren of those exposed rats, creating a fourth generation, or the great-grandchildren of the original subjects. “It’s OK,” Skinner told her. “You might as well analyze them.” If nothing else, he thought, the exercise might take her mind off her mistake. So she went ahead and studied the rats’ testes under a microscope. What they found would not only change the direction of Skinner’s research but also challenge a bedrock principle of modern biology. And Skinner would become the forerunner of a new way of thinking about the possible long-term health consequences of exposure to environmental chemicals. .........
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Mysterious disease turning starfish to 'slime' on U.S. West Coast

Scientists are struggling to find the trigger for a disease that appears to be ravaging starfish in record numbers along the U.S. West Coast, causing the sea creatures to lose their limbs and turn to slime in a matter of days. Marine biologists and ecologists will launch an extensive survey this week along the coasts of California, Washington state and Oregon to determine the reach and source of the deadly syndrome, known as "star wasting disease." "It's pretty spooky because we don't have any obvious culprit for the root cause even though we know it's likely caused by a pathogen," said Pete Raimondi, chair of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California at Santa Cruz's Long Marine Lab. Signs of sea star wasting syndrome typically begin with white lesions on the arms of the starfish that spread inward, causing the entire animal to disintegrate in less than a week, according to a report by the Pacific Rocky Intertidal Monitoring Program at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Starfish have suffered from the syndrome on and off for decades but have usually been reported in small numbers, isolated to Southern California and linked to a rise in seawater temperatures, which is not the case this time, Raimondi said...........
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Modeling Earth's future | Royal Society

Modeling Earth's future | Royal Society | Ecohealth | Scoop.it
A report produced with the National Academy of Sciences on integrated assessments of linked human-natural systems.

 

Integrated assessments of linked human-natural systems

 

 

Every year, UK and US scientists work together on topics of worldwide scientific concern, under the Sackler Forum sponsored by Raymond and Beverly Sackler.  Previous fora have focused on global food security and neuroscience and the law.

Modeling Earth’s future: Integrated assessments of linked human-natural systems accounts for a workshop held at Chicheley Hall in September 2012, which uniquely brought together over 80 UK and US scientists from two modeling communities – climate and integrated assessment - to discuss the potential and the pitfalls associated with modeling human-natural systems. 

Integrated assessment models use numerical simulations of both natural and human systems to explore the wider impacts of climate change, unlike climate models that focus solely on natural, physical systems.  Valuable policy insights derive from these models, and the report concludes that integrated assessment models have the potential for rigorous, quantitative insight into how the planet and human societies might change in the future. They show, for instance, that the limits on emissions imposed by current policies are not adequate to avoid potentially dire changes to natural and human systems.

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West African bats: No safe haven for malaria parasites

West African bats: No safe haven for malaria parasites | Ecohealth | Scoop.it
In Europe, bats are normally discussed in the context of endangered species threatened by loss of their habitats. However, in recent years, bats have caught the eye of infection biologists. The animals are namely hosts to a surprising number of pathogens, many of which could be dangerous to humans. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin and the American Museum of Natural History have been able to identify in West African bats four genera of parasites that are closely related to the malaria pathogen. One of them is the genus Plasmodium, which also includes the species that cause malaria in humans. The Plasmodium species in bats are very similar to that found in rodents and could advance the study of malaria pathogens' defence strategies against immune system responses. Bats can transmit various diseases to human beings. Indeed, they serve as reservoir hosts for a long list of pathogens, including the "who's who" of dreaded killer viruses: Ebola, Marburg, Nipah, Hendra and Lyssa. The SARS outbreak in 2002 in Asia and the transmission of a previously unidentified virus (MERS) to humans in the Middle East in 2013 can both be traced back to viruses that have switched hosts from bats to humans. Bats have an exceptional immune system that can hold all these viruses in check. However, some infections in humans often have a deadly outcome. Recently, the researchers have also found an astonishing variety of blood parasites in West African bats. They examined 31 bat species from the West African forest in Guinea, Liberia and the Ivory Coast with regard to parasites that attack red blood cells. 40 per cent of the approximately 270 examined animals carried parasites of the genera Plasmodium, Polychromophilus, Nycteria and Hepatocystis. According to the study, at least two species of Plasmodium can be found in bats. These bat pathogens are very similar to those found in rodents. "There are different arboreal rodents in the tropics that live in close vicinity to bats and in result might attract the same mosquitoes that transmit parasites from one group of animals to another," says Juliane Schaer from the Max Planck Institute in Berlin
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Moose Die-Off Alarms Scientists

Moose Die-Off Alarms Scientists | Ecohealth | Scoop.it
Populations across the continent are experiencing a sharp decline, and the exact cause is a mystery. But there is a common thread among possible factors: climate change. Across North America — in places as far-flung as Montana and British Columbia, New Hampshire and Minnesota — moose populations are in steep decline. And no one is sure why. New research tries to break through cancer’s protective shield and women with breast cancer in Uganda face terrible challenges; the weather turns on North America’s forest giant. Twenty years ago, Minnesota had two geographically separate moose populations. One of them has virtually disappeared since the 1990s, declining to fewer than 100 from 4,000. The other population, in northeastern Minnesota, is dropping 25 percent a year and is now fewer than 3,000, down from 8,000. (The moose mortality rate used to be 8 percent to 12 percent a year.) As a result, wildlife officials have suspended all moose hunting. Here in Montana, moose hunting permits fell to 362 last year, from 769 in 1995. “Something’s changed,” said Nicholas DeCesare, a biologist with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks who is counting moose in this part of the state — one of numerous efforts across the continent to measure and explain the decline. “There’s fewer moose out there, and hunters are working harder to find them.” What exactly has changed remains a mystery. Several factors are clearly at work. But a common thread in most hypotheses is climate change..........
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Birds of all feathers and global flu diversity

Birds of all feathers and global flu diversity | Ecohealth | Scoop.it
A group of international scientists have completed the first global inventory of flu strains in birds by reviewing more than 50 published studies and genetic data, providing new insight into the drivers of viral diversity and the emergence of disease that can ultimately impact human health and livelihoods. The research, published in the journal PLOS ONE and performed as part of the USAID PREDICT project, identified over 116 avian flu strains in wild birds. This is roughly twice the number that were found in domestic birds, and more than ten times the number found in humans. Additionally, an analysis of studies that sampled more than 5,000 birds suggested some regions may have more viral diversity than others. Avian flu outbreaks come with no warning. In 2013, an H7N9 avian flu strain caused a deadly outbreak in people in China. This surprised virologists, as the strain had never before caused disease in humans. To date, there have been more than 300 clinical cases of H7N9 with a 33 percent mortality rate. This year, another strain known to infect birds, H10N8, has caused human cases for the first time.....
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West Nile virus blamed for death of eagles in Utah

West Nile virus blamed for death of eagles in Utah | Ecohealth | Scoop.it
An unusual wintertime outbreak of West Nile virus has killed more than two dozen bald eagles in Utah and thousands of shore birds around the Great Salt Lake, state wildlife officials said on Tuesday. At least 27 bald eagles have died this month in the northern and central parts of Utah from the blood-borne virus, and state biologists reported that five more ailing eagles were responding to treatment at rehabilitation centers. The eagles are believed to have contracted the disease by preying on sick or dead shore birds called eared grebes that were infected by West Nile virus, said Leslie McFarlane, Utah wildlife disease coordinator. The water birds have died by the thousands in and around the Great Salt Lake since November. Initial testing suggested an infectious bacterial disease such as avian cholera caused the deaths, but findings released on Tuesday showed West Nile virus was the culprit, McFarlane said. The dead birds do not pose a risk to people, Utah Health Department epidemiologist JoDee Baker said in a statement. Yet Baker urged those who find sick or dead birds to avoid handling them. Utah wildlife specialists said bird deaths tied to West Nile virus were unusual in wintertime in Utah since mosquitoes - the primary vector - are not usually active during colder ...........
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New global study reveals how diet and digestion in cows, chickens and pigs drives climate change 'hoofprint'

New global study reveals how diet and digestion in cows, chickens and pigs drives climate change 'hoofprint' | Ecohealth | Scoop.it
The resources required to raise livestock and the impacts of farm animals on environments vary dramatically depending on the animal, the type of food it provides, the kind of feed it consumes and where it lives, according to a new study that offers the most detailed portrait to date of "livestock ecosystems" in different parts of the world. The study, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), is the newest comprehensive assessment assembled of what cows, sheep, pigs, poultry and other farm animals are eating in different parts of the world; how efficiently they convert that feed into milk, eggs and meat; and the amount of greenhouse gases they produce. The study, produced by scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), shows that animals in many parts of the developing world require far more food to produce a kilo of protein than animals in wealthy countries. It also shows that pork and poultry are being produced far more efficiently than milk and beef, and greenhouse gas emissions vary widely depending on the animal involved and the quality of its diet.......
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Why wildlife health is important for conservation - IUCN International

Why wildlife health is important for conservation - IUCN International | Ecohealth | Scoop.it
Wildlife health is an important and growing, yet often overlooked, component of the conservation of wild species. Just like humans and domestic animals, wildlife are susceptible to intra- and inter-species diseases that can cause morbidity (the number of individuals in poor health in a given time period) and mortality. In natural robust or resilient populations, this is just part and parcel of life, and in some species important in natural population control or for contributing to population genetic health. Regrettably this situation is becoming increasingly rare with human-induced global change including loss of populations and even species. Many of the drivers of biodiversity loss, such as habitat loss and degradation and overexploitation of species, may put wildlife at increased risk of disease spread through various stressors and from new contact with other populations, other species or environmental pollutants. Several recent wildlife health concerns have been widely documented and have required extensive efforts for disease prevention and control. .......
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Disease, not climate change, fueling frog declines in the Andes, study finds

Disease, not climate change, fueling frog declines in the Andes, study finds | Ecohealth | Scoop.it
Climate change is widely believed to be behind the rapid decline of frog populations in the Andes mountains, but a new study finds that the real culprit is a deadly fungus that has wiped out amphibian species worldwide. Frogs living at higher elevations can tolerate increasing temperatures, researchers found, but their habitats fall within the optimal temperature range for Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or Bd, a harmful pathogen they have only encountered relatively recently. The disease caused by Bd, chytridiomycosis, has led to the recent decline or extinction of 200 frog species worldwide. The results have implications both for researchers trying to understand the rapid decline in frog populations across the globe and for conservationists looking to save the animals, said Vance Vredenburg, associate professor of biology at San Francisco State University and co-author of the study. "Our research shows that we can't just automatically point our finger at climate change," he said. "We need to look carefully at what is causing these outbreaks." The research was conducted at Wayqecha Biological Station on the eastern slopes of the Andes, located near Manu National Park in southern Peru. To measure frogs' tolerance to the changing climate, researchers placed them in water baths of varying temperatures, then flipped them on their backs. If a frog quickly flipped itself back over, that meant it was able to tolerate the warmer water. If not, researchers knew the frog had become overwhelmed and unable to deal with the change......
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Study: Loss of wetland biodiversity increases disease risk in frogs

Study: Loss of wetland biodiversity increases disease risk in frogs | Ecohealth | Scoop.it
Amphibians in species-poor wetlands have a higher risk of becoming infected with a virulent parasite than those in wetlands with a rich diversity of species, according to a Purdue University finding that sheds light on how biodiversity moderates... Wildlife health is an important and growing, yet often overlooked, component of the conservation of wild species. Just like humans and domestic animals, wildlife are susceptible to intra- and inter-species diseases that can cause morbidity (the number of individuals in poor health in a given time period) and mortality. In natural robust or resilient populations, this is just part and parcel of life, and in some species important in natural population control or for contributing to population genetic health. Regrettably this situation is becoming increasingly rare with human-induced global change including loss of populations and even species. Many of the drivers of biodiversity loss, such as habitat loss and degradation and overexploitation of species, may put wildlife at increased risk of disease spread through various stressors and from new contact with other populations, other species or environmental pollutants. Several recent wildlife health concerns have been widely documented and have required extensive efforts for disease prevention and control. Over 100 wild species are known to be susceptible to rabies virus, and it has caused significant die-offs of endangered African Wild Dogs (Lycaon pictus) and Ethiopian Wolf (Canis simensis)......
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Human Health Depends on a Healthy Environment

Human Health Depends on a Healthy Environment | Ecohealth | Scoop.it
What is the value of an intact rainforest? From a people perspective, maybe it's more useful turned into lumber and cropland. The responses to such arguments have often cited what are called ecosystem services. These are the keys to life that natural systems provide for free—think: breathable air and potable water. Other counters point to the psychological benefits of the natural world. Now we have a new reason for conservation: human health. Turns out forest fires set to clear land in Indonesia generate the kind of soot that lodges in lungs and shortens lives across Southeast Asia. Dams and irrigation projects upriver in Africa increase the population of malarial mosquitoes downriver. These are just two of the examples from a new analysis in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Then consider big upheavals like global warming. Climate change means ............
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Fruit bat population covering central Africa carries two deadly viruses

Fruit bat population covering central Africa carries two deadly viruses | Ecohealth | Scoop.it
A population of fruit bats which is found across much of continental Africa is widely infected with two deadly viruses that could spread to humans, new research reveals. The study, conducted jointly by the University of Cambridge and the Zoological Society of London's Institute of Zoology and published today in the journal Nature Communications, found that the "gregarious" bats span over 4,500 km of central Africa (around the distance from California to New York). The researchers also discovered that thirty-four per cent of the bats had been infected with Lagos bat virus, a disease similar to rabies, and 42 per cent had been infected with henipaviruses. The African straw-coloured fruit bat (Eidolon helvum), which can live in roosts of over one million and often congregates near cities, was previously known to be a reservoir for these viruses, but it was not known to what extent. For the study, the researchers tested over 2,000 bats in 12 different countries across Africa, measuring DNA from blood and tissue samples. They discovered that the bats were largely genetically similar, meaning that they travelled and mated across the continent without any evidence of population subgroups or specific migratory patterns -- the largest example of this freely mixing population structure ever found in mammals. The species' homogeneity and extensive movement means that the two viruses can be spread easily......
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Researchers develop new approach to identify possible ecological effects of releasing genetically engineered insects

University of Minnesota researchers have developed a new approach for identifying potential environmental effects of deliberate releases of genetically engineered (GE) insects. The researchers outline their approach in a paper in the journal Ecology and Evolution. The authors include professor of entomology David Andow and Aaron David, Joe Kaser, Amy Morey and Alex Roth – four graduate students who received NSF Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeships (IGERT) – the National Science Foundation's flagship interdisciplinary training program educating U.S. Ph.D. scientists and engineers. GE insects hold great promise for significantly changing pest management and fighting insect borne human diseases throughout the world. Before releasing GE insects, scientists, governments and industry must examine the possible ecological effects GE insects could have by doing ecological risk assessments (ERA). University researchers' new approach provides improved guidance for such assessments. "When new technology is developed, you want to make sure it's safe," says Morey, who is a doctoral student in the Department of Entomology. "You want to know what could happen when you release these novel organisms into the environment." Because GE insects are such a new technology, there really isn't a standard way of evaluating that yet, she says. "Our project is trying to get it a little bit further into a standardization -- a framework for how do you go about systematically evaluating a new technology so you're looking at all the sorts of different interactions that could possibly happen," Morey says.
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Climate change, people and ecosystems:Assessing strategies for adaptation

The November 2013 issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment is devoted to an assessment of climate change effects on ecosystems, and the consequences for people. The coming century will bring many changes for natural systems and for the human societies that depend on them, as changing climate conditions ripple outward to changing rainfall patterns, soil nutrient cycles, species ranges, seasonal timing, and a multitude of other interconnected factors. Many of these changes have already begun. Preparing for a future of unpredictable change will require, as the President suggests, the coordinated action of people across all sectors of society, as well as good information from the research community. The November 2013 issue of the Ecological Society of America's journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment is devoted to an assessment of climate change effects on ecosystems, and the consequences for people. "The impacts that climate change has had and will have on people are interwoven with the impacts on ecosystems. I think that we instinctively know that. In this assessment, we try to draw that connection," said guest editor Nancy Grimm, a professor in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University. To produce this Special Issue of ESA's Frontiers, a diverse group of over 50 ecological scientists and other stakeholders condensed and illustrated the work they had done for a technical input report on biodiversity, ecosystems, and ecosystem services for the US National Climate Assessment. The Assessment is due to be released in 2014.
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Tuberculosis and the social lives of badgers

Tuberculosis and the social lives of badgers | Ecohealth | Scoop.it
Badgers are an important wildlife reservoir for tuberculosis infection, a disease that leads thousands of cattle to slaughter each year. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on October 21 have found that the spread of the disease is influenced in surprising ways by infected badgers, and especially by the details of their social lives. "In wild animals, just as in humans, social networks are very important for disease transmission," says Robbie McDonald of the University of Exeter. "When management changes stable networks, the results for disease control are often counterintuitive and unexpected." By using special collars that tracked social interactions, first author Nicola Weber, working with colleagues at the National Wildlife Management Centre at Woodchester Park in rural England, found that tuberculosis (TB)-infected badgers were more isolated from their own social groups than were uninfected badgers. However, Weber also found that infected badgers were more likely to form social linkages for the flow of infection to other groups. As a result, infected badgers are less likely to spread the disease within their own groups but more likely to facilitate spread across a network. "This unusual social arrangement may help explain why TB tends not to spread easily in undisturbed badger populations but also may help explain why, when their social networks are perturbed, infection spreads quickly to other badgers and onwards to cattle," McDonald says. The researchers refer to these infected animals as "spread capacitors" because they are passive components in the network that can hold and discharge infection but tend to stabilize flow. "That's in contrast to the more familiar notion of 'super-spreader' individuals that are thought to spread infection disproportionately because of their high connectedness in a network," McDonald explains. The findings suggest that badger management efforts will be most effective when they maintain stability and do not disrupt social networks. And that means it might be more effective in the long term to vaccinate badgers than it is to attempt to cull them. "The good news is that vaccination does not disturb social structure," McDonald says. "The sort of social structure we have observed -- where relatively few individuals might be responsible for disease spread -- lends itself to vaccination and could lead quite rapidly to herd immunity."
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Frog-killing fungus paralyzes amphibian immune response

Frog-killing fungus paralyzes amphibian immune response | Ecohealth | Scoop.it

A fungus that is killing frogs and other amphibians around the world releases a toxic factor that disables the amphibian immune response, Vanderbilt University investigators report this week in the journal Science.

 

The findings represent “a step forward in understanding a long-standing puzzle — why the amphibian immune system seems to be so inept at clearing the fungus,” said Louise Rollins-Smith, Ph.D., associate professor of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology. Although the identity of the toxic fungal factor (or factors) remains a mystery, its ability to inhibit a wide range of cell types — including cancerous cells — suggests that it may offer new directions for the development of immunosuppressive or anti-cancer agents.

The populations of amphibian species have been declining worldwide for more than 40 years. In the late 1990s, researchers discovered that an ancient fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, was causing skin infections, and the fungus is now recognized as a leading contributor to global amphibian decline......

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