Editor’s Note: This is the second in a six-part series
MALARIA-It’s a tropical disease, right? But scientists have now discovered just how far the disease can be found-and it’s moving north.The reason? Climate change.
Susceptible birds are now exposed to infection as far north as Alaska,a new study finds. And global warming may push avian malaria even further north by the end of the century!The parasite really is found around the world. Plasmodium relictum, for instance, has been reported to occur in all continents except Antarctica.
You know, island populations tend to be particularly susceptible to avian malaria. But why?
1) Partly that’s because bird populations tend to be numerically small and often comprise fewer populations thanks to the restricted land area.
2)They must also adapt to and survive within a more limited range of habitats.
3)Then, the effects of introduced parasites, pathogens, predators etc. have been described as “geometrically greater on small land areas than larger ones”
Meanwhile the parasites have caused havoc on island populations such as Hawaii, New Zealand, Samoa, and the Galapagos islands.
The native Hawaiian bird populations suffer most: some 50 to 90 percent of Plasmodium infections are fatal in adult birds. In fact, scientists have described this region of the world as “the global epicenter for imminent extinctions“.
Beadell, J.S. et al. (2006). Global phylogeographic limits of Hawaii’s avian malaria. Proc. R. Soc. B., 273:2935-2944.
LaPointe, D.A., Atkinson, C.T., Samuel, M.D. (2014). Ecology and conservation biology of avian malaria. Ann.N.Y. Acad.Sci.,1249:211-226.
Cover image taken from: http://coolstylewallpapers.com/tropical-paradise-wallpaper/