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Rev Sci Tech. 2008 Aug;27(2):339-54.

Climate change: effects on animal disease systems and implications for surveillance and control.

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Animal Production and Health Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00153 Rome, Italy.


Climate driven and other changes in landscape structure and texture, plus more general factors, may create favourable ecological niches for emerging diseases. Abiotic factors impact on vectors, reservoirs and pathogen bionomics and their ability to establish in new ecosystems. Changes in climatic patterns and in seasonal conditions may affect disease behaviour in terms of spread pattern, diffusion range, amplification and persistence in novel habitats. Pathogen invasion may result in the emergence of novel disease complexes, presenting major challenges for the sustainability of future animal agriculture at the global level. In this paper, some of the ecological mechanisms underlying the impact of climatic change on disease transmission and disease spread are further described. Potential effects of different climatic variables on pathogens and host population dynamics and distribution are complex to assess, and different approaches are used to describe the underlying epidemiological processes and the availability of ecological niches for pathogens and vectors. The invasion process can disrupt the long-term co-evolution of species. Pathogens adhering to an r-type strategy (e.g. RNA viruses) may be more inclined to encroach on a novel niche resulting from climate change. However, even when linkage between disease dynamics and climate change are relatively strong, there are other factors changing disease behaviour, and these should be accounted for as well. Overall vulnerability of a given ecosystem is a key variable in this regard. The impact of climate-driven changes varies in different parts of the world and in the different agro-climatic zones. Perhaps priority should go to those geographical areas where the integrity of the ecosystem is most severely affected and the adaptability, in terms of robustness and sustainability of response, relatively low.

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