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Waterfowl spring migratory behavior and avian influenza transmission risk in the changing landscape of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway

December 4, 2018

Avian influenza has advanced from a regional concern to a global health issue with significant economic, trade, and public health implications. Wild birds, particularly waterfowl (Anseriformes), are known reservoirs for low-pathogenic avian influenza viruses (AIV) and recent studies have shown their potential in the spread of highly pathogenic forms of virus. East Asia remains an epicenter for the emergence of novel strains of AIV, however, information on movement ecology of waterfowl, and subsequently a clearer understanding of disease transmission risks in this region has been greatly lacking. To address this, we marked two species of wild waterfowl, northern pintail (Anas acuta) and Eurasian wigeon (Anas penelope), with satellite transmitters on their wintering grounds in Hong Kong, China to study the northward spring migration in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway in relation to disease transmission factors. Northern pintail were found to initiate migration 42 days earlier, travel 2,150 km farther, and perform 4.4 more stopovers than Eurasian wigeon. We found both species used similar stopover locations including areas along the Yangtze River near Shanghai, Bohai Bay and Korea Bay in rapidly developing regions of the Yellow Sea, and the Sea of Okhotsk where the species appeared to funnel through a migratory bottleneck. Both species appeared to exhibit strong habitat selection for rice paddies during migration stopovers, a habitat preference which has the potential to influence risks of AIV outbreaks as rapid land use and land cover changes occur throughout China. Both species had greatest association with H5N1 outbreaks during the early stages of migration when they were at lower latitudes. While Eurasian wigeon were not associated with outbreaks after the mean date of wintering ground departures, northern pintail were associated with outbreaks until the majority of individuals departed from the Yellow Sea, a migratory stopover location. Our results show species-level differences in migration timing and behavior for these common and widespread species, demonstrating the need to consider their unique temporal and spatial movement ecology when incorporating wild birds into AIV risk modeling and management.

Publication Year 2018
Title Waterfowl spring migratory behavior and avian influenza transmission risk in the changing landscape of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway
DOI 10.3389/fevo.2018.00206
Authors Jeffery D. Sullivan, John Y. Takekawa, Kyle A. Spragens, Scott H. Newman, Xiangming Xiao, Paul J. Leader, Bena Smith, Diann J. Prosser
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution
Index ID 70201171
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Patuxent Wildlife Research Center