Polar Wildlife

Black-legged kittiwakes breeding in the Arctic. Such wild species host parasites and infectious agents which can affect their health. In the context of global change, a better understanding of processes underlying polar wildlife health issues and their interactions with human activities is needed (Picture Thierry Boulinier/IPEV).

Workshop was held on Polar Wildlife Health at Polar 2018, Davos, on June 15th, organized on behalf of the Terrestrial Working Group of the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) and the Expert Group on Birds and Marine mammals (EG-BAMM) health monitoring group of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR). Wildlife species are of critical ecological and socio-economic and importance in Polar Regions, yet in the current context of global change they are experiencing increasing health challenges and the persistence of many species is uncertain. A better understanding of wildlife health status, including the diversity of pathogens and ecology of infectious and non-infectious diseases (e.g., toxins, immunity, and stress), is critical in order to anticipate, manage, and mitigate wildlife health issues at the poles. This workshop aimed to identify key scientific knowledge gaps in wildlife health and disease and to foster new research initiatives and collaborations at the interface between ecology and diseases in Polar Regions.

The importance of setting up carefully designed monitoring programs and of studies focusing on wild animal systems of particular relevance in the context of global change was identified. In this context, some particularities of polar host-parasite systems were outlined, such as the relatively simple species composition of their communities, their strong spatial structure and seasonality, and the fact that they are the subject of dramatic climate change effects. Issues linked to human health and human activities at the interface with wildlife were also identified as a future priority. It was decided to pursue interactions on these topics by the future organization of a workshop in 2020 and the writing up of a synthesis paper on the topic.

Contact: Thierry Boulinier

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