By combining data on six parasite species from ongoing surveys of lemur health with weather data and other environmental information for Madagascar as a whole, a team of Duke University researchers has created probability maps of likely parasite distributions throughout the island today.
This is an indri (Indri indri) from eastern Madagascar.
Credit: Meredith Barrett
Then, using climate projections for the year 2080, they estimate what parasite distributions might look like in the future.
"We can use these models to figure out where the risk of lemur-human disease transmission might be highest, and use that to better protect the future of lemur and human health," said lead author Meredith Barrett, who conducted the study while working as a graduate student at Duke.
Lemurs are native to the African island of Madagascar, where climate change isn't the only threat to their survival. More than 90 percent of the lemurs' forest habitat has already been cleared for logging, farming and grazing. Illegal hunting for bushmeat is also a problem.
A key part of saving these animals is ensuring that they stay healthy as environmental conditions in their island home continue to shift, Barrett said.
Average annual temperatures in Madagascar are predicted to rise by 1.1 to 2.6 degrees Celsius by 2080. Rainfall, drought and cyclone patterns are changing too.
In a study published in the January 2013 issue of the journal Biological Conservation, Barrett and colleagues examined what these changes could mean for lemur health by taking a cue from the parasites they carry.
The team focused on six species of mites, ticks and intestinal worms commonly known to infect lemurs. The parasites are identified in lemur fur and feces. Some species -- such as pinworms, whipworms and tapeworms -- cause diarrhea, dehydration and weight loss in human hosts. Others, particularly mites and ticks, can transmit diseases such as plague, typhus or scabies.
When the researchers compared their present-day maps with parasite distributions predicted for the future, they found that lemur parasites could expand their range by as much as 60 percent. Whipworms, for example, which are now largely confined to Madagascar's northeast and western coasts, may become widely distributed on the country's southeastern coast as well.
Anne Yoder, senior author on the study and Director of the Duke Lemur Center, said the research is particularly important now as lemurs have been identified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as the most endangered mammals on earth.
Warmer weather means that parasites could grow and reproduce more quickly, or spread to higher latitudes and elevations where once they were unable to survive. As lemur parasites become more prevalent, the diseases they carry could show up in new places. The spread could be harmful to lemur populations that have never encountered these pests before, and lack resistance to the diseases they carry.
Shifting parasite distributions could have ripple effects on people too. As human population growth in Madagascar drives people and their livestock into previously uninhabited areas, wildlife-human disease transmission becomes increasingly likely.
The authors hope their results will help researchers predict where disease hotspots are likely to occur, and prepare for them before they hit.
Meredith Barrett is now a postdoctoral scholar with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at the University of California at San Francisco and Berkeley. Jason Brown of Duke University and Randall Junge of the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium were also authors of this study.
Funding was provided by the National Science Foundation, the Saint Louis Zoo Field Conservation for Research Fund, Duke University Center for International Studies, Duke University Graduate School, Nicholas School of the Environment and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
CITATION: "Climate change, predictive modeling and lemur health: Assessing impacts of changing climate on health and conservation in Madagascar." Barrett, M., J. Brown, et al. Biological Conservation, January 2013. 157: 409-422. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2012.09.003
Robin Ann Smith | EurekAlert!
Successful calculation of human and natural influence on cloud formation
04.11.2016 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy