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The consequences of climate change at an avian influenza 'hotspot'.

Abstract

Avian influenza viruses (AIVs) pose significant danger to human health. A key step in managing this threat is understanding the maintenance of AIVs in wild birds, their natural reservoir. Ruddy turnstones (Arenaria interpres) are an atypical bird species in this regard, annually experiencing high AIV prevalence in only one location-Delaware Bay, USA, during their spring migration. While there, they congregate on beaches, attracted by the super-abundance of horseshoe crab eggs. A relationship between ruddy turnstone and horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) population sizes has been established, with a declining horseshoe crab population linked to a corresponding drop in ruddy turnstone population sizes. The effect of this interaction on AIV prevalence in ruddy turnstones has also been addressed. Here, we employ a transmission model to investigate how the interaction between these two species is likely to be altered by climate change. We explore the consequences of this modified interaction on both ruddy turnstone population size and AIV prevalence and show that, if climate change leads to a large enough mismatch in species phenology, AIV prevalence in ruddy turnstones will increase even as their population size decreases.

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