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Warmer world will be a sicker world, say scientists

Global warming and changing climatic conditions are triggering disease epidemics in wildlife around the world, reports a renowned team of ecologists and epidemiologists in the Friday June 21st issue of Science. The outbreaks are occurring in habitats ranging from coral reefs to rainforests.

This comprehensive two year study coming out of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) is the first to analyze disease epidemics across entire plant and animal systems, both on land and in the oceans. The study investigates these recent disease outbreaks and examines the mechanisms related to temperature or seasonality changes that could influence them. "What is most surprising is the fact that climate sensitive outbreaks are happening with so many different types of pathogens - viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites - as well as in such a wide range of hosts including corals, oysters, terrestrial plants, birds, and humans," says lead author Drew Harvell of Cornell University.

"This isn't just a question of coral bleaching for a few marine ecologists, nor just a question of malaria for a few health officials - the number of similar increases in disease incidence is astonishing," says coauthor Richard Ostfeld from the Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook New York. "We don't want to be alarmist, but we are alarmed."

The team of experts has concluded that there are common themes likely linked to global warming. "Climate change is disrupting natural ecosystems in a way that is making life better for infectious diseases," states epidemiologist Andrew Dobson of Princeton University. "The accumulation of evidence has us extremely worried. We share diseases with some of these species. The risk for humans is going up."

The team documented examples of viruses, bacteria, and fungi associated with diseases that develop more rapidly with slight rises in temperature. Many vectors o
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Contact: Jessica Brown
jbrown@seaweb.org
202-483-9570
SeaWeb
20-Jun-2002


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