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Synthesizing Climate Change Impacts on Wildlife Health and Identifying Adaptation Strategies

Project Information

Principal Investigator(s): Erik Hofmeister and Jonathan Sleeman, USGS National Wildlife Health Center
Proposed Project Completion: September 2020
Implements Science Plan Theme: Adaptation, Impacts


Changing climate conditions could have significant impacts on wildlife health. Shifts in temperature and precipitation may directly affect the occurrence of disease in fish and wildlife by altering their interactions with pathogens (such as the bacterium that causes Lyme disease), helping vectors like mosquitoes and ticks expand their range, or speeding up the time it takes for a parasite to develop from an egg to an adult. Climate change can also indirectly affect the health of fish and wildlife as their habitats change. For example, reduced food availability could lead to overcrowding and increased disease transmission, or warmer temperatures might increase stress levels, weakening immune systems and making animals more susceptible to disease.

The goal of this project is to review and synthesize existing information on the impacts of climate change on fish and wildlife health across North America. Researchers will develop a searchable database containing this information, and will use that database to identify gaps in knowledge and unique areas of concern. Through a symposium with DOI scientists and stakeholders, including resource managers, state agencies, and Tribes, researchers will define near-term science priorities for better understanding the impacts of climate change on wildlife health and will identify potential adaptation strategies.