Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Wildlife health in a rapidly changing North: focus on avian disease

February 18, 2015

Climate-related environmental changes have increasingly been linked to emerging infectious diseases in wildlife. The Arctic is facing a major ecological transition that is expected to substantially affect animal and human health. Changes in phenology or environmental conditions that result from climate warming may promote novel species assemblages as host and pathogen ranges expand to previously unoccupied areas. Recent evidence from the Arctic and subarctic suggests an increase in the spread and prevalence of some wildlife diseases, but baseline data necessary to detect and verify such changes are still lacking. Wild birds are undergoing rapid shifts in distribution and have been implicated in the spread of wildlife and zoonotic diseases. Here, we review evidence of current and projected changes in the abundance and distribution of avian diseases and outline strategies for future research. We discuss relevant climatic and environmental factors, emerging host–pathogen contact zones, the relationship between host condition and immune function, and potential wildlife and human health outcomes in northern regions.

Related Content