When host populations move north, but disease moves south: counter-intuitive impacts of climate warming on disease spread

Moran, E. Joe and Martignoni, Maria M. and Lecomte, Nicolas and Leighton, Patrick and Hurford, Amy (2023) When host populations move north, but disease moves south: counter-intuitive impacts of climate warming on disease spread. Theoretical Ecology, 16 (1). pp. 13-19. ISSN 1874-1746

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Empirical observations and mathematical models show that climate warming can lead to the northern (or, more generally, poleward) spread of host species ranges and their corresponding diseases. Here, we explore an unexpected possibility whereby climate warming induces disease spread in the opposite direction to the directional shift in the host species range. To test our hypothesis, we formulate a reaction-diffusion equation model with a Susceptible-Infected (SI) epidemiological structure for two host species, both susceptible to a disease, but spatially isolated due to distinct thermal niches, and where prior to climate warming the disease is endemic in the northern species only. Previous theoretical results show that species’ distributions can lag behind species’ thermal niches when climate warming occurs. As such, we find that climate warming, by shifting both species’ niches forward, may increase the overlap between northern and southern host species ranges, due to the northern species lagging behind its thermal tolerance limit, thus facilitating a southern disease spread. As our model is general, our findings may apply to viral, bacterial, and prion diseases that do not have thermal tolerance limits and are inextricably linked to their hosts’ distributions, such as the spread of rabies from arctic to red foxes.

Item Type: Article
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/16406
Item ID: 16406
Keywords: climate change, spillover, reaction-diffusion equations, thermal niche, poleward dispersal, disease spread, susceptible-infected model, rabies, arctic foxes, extinction debt
Department(s): Science, Faculty of > Biology
Date: 9 January 2023
Date Type: Publication
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): https://doi.org/10.1007/s12080-022-00551-z
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