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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2009 Nov 27;364(1534):3429-38. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2009.0128.

Effects of environmental change on wildlife health.

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Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Regent's Park, London NW1 4RY, UK.


Environmental change has negatively affected most biological systems on our planet and is becoming of increasing concern for the well-being and survival of many species. At an organism level, effects encompass not only endocrine disruptions, sex-ratio changes and decreased reproductive parameters, but also include teratogenic and genotoxic effects, immunosuppression and other immune-system impairments that can lead directly to disease or increase the risk of acquiring disease. Living organisms will strive to maintain health by recognizing and resolving abnormal situations, such as the presence of invading microorganisms or harmful peptides, abnormal cell replication and deleterious mutations. However, fast-paced environmental changes may pose additional pressure on immunocompetence and health maintenance, which may seriously impact population viability and persistence. Here, we outline the importance of a functional immune system for survival and examine the effects that exposure to a rapidly changing environment might exert on immunocompetence. We then address the various levels at which anthropogenic environmental change might affect wildlife health and identify potential deficits in reproductive parameters that might arise owing to new immune challenges in the context of a rapidly changing environment. Throughout the paper, a series of examples and case studies are used to illustrate the impact of environmental change on wildlife health.

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