Assessing Surveillance of Wildlife Diseases by Determining Mammal Species Vulnerability to Climate Change

S. R. Wijburg, M. Maas,H. Sprong,1. Gröne,G. van der Schrier,and J. M. Rijks

Climate change is one of the drivers of wildlife-borne disease emergence, as it can affect species abundance and fitness, host immunocompetence, and interactions with pathogens. To detect emerging wildlife-borne diseases, countries may implement general wildlife-disease surveillance systems. Such surveillance exists in the Netherlands. However, it is unclear how well it covers host species vulnerable to climate change and consequently disease emergence in these species. Therefore, we performed a trait-based vulnerability assessment (TVA) to quantify species vulnerability to climate change for 59 Dutch terrestrial mammals. Species’ vulnerability was estimated based on the magnitude of climatic change within the species’ distribution (exposure), the species’ potential to persist in situ (sensitivity), and the species’ ability to adjust (adaptive capacity). Using these vulnerability categories, we identified priority species at risk for disease emergence due to climate change. Subsequently, we assessed the frequency of occurrence of these priority species compared to other mammal species examined in general wildlife disease surveillance during 2008–2022. We identified 25% of the mammal species to be highly exposed, 24% to be highly sensitive, and 22% to have a low adaptive capacity. The whiskered myotis and the garden dormouse were highly vulnerable (i.e., highly exposed, highly sensitive, and low adaptive capacity), but they are rare in the Netherlands. The Western barbastelle, the pond bat, and the Daubenton’s myotis were potential adapters (highly exposed, highly sensitive, and high adaptive capacity). Species vulnerable to climate change were relatively poorly represented in current general surveillance. Our research shows a comprehensive approach that considers both exposures to climate change and ecological factors to assess vulnerability. TVAs, as presented in this study, can easily be adapted to include extra drivers and species, and we would therefore recommend surveillance institutes to consider integrating these types of assessments for evaluating and improving surveillance for wildlife-borne disease emergence.

Bibliographic data

S. R. Wijburg, M. Maas, H. Sprong, 1. Gröne, G. van der Schrier, and J. M. Rijks. Assessing Surveillance of Wildlife Diseases by Determining Mammal Species Vulnerability to Climate Change
Journal: Transboundary and emerging diseases, Volume: 2023, Year: 2023, First page: 7628262, doi: 10.1155/2023/7628262