Identifying Potential Drivers of Wildlife Infectious Disease Distributions Across Africa

Sunday, February 14, 2016
Paul Sesink Clee, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA
Emerging infectious diseases have spread widely throughout the past decade in wildlife populations and have become a focus of substantial concern for conservationists. Wildlife infectious diseases can expand quite rapidly through ecosystems, becoming detrimental to species’ survival. In order to better understand the spread of wildlife infectious diseases in nature, it is important to identify what features of the landscape drive their distributions. There are a number of hypotheses that attempt to explain overarching trends in disease spread, but most, if not all, are not applicable to more than a few diseases. This research aims to test hypotheses of what drives infectious disease in wildlife populations, using a variety of diseases that infect a diverse set of taxa across Equatorial Africa. The rainforests of Equatorial Africa collectively support more than 20% of all plant and animal taxa, and are known for high levels of both species richness and endemism. This study is aimed at understanding the contributions of three potential drivers of wildlife infectious disease spread: (i) biodiversity, (ii) climate and climate change, and (iii) anthropogenic pressure. These three proposed causative agents will be used to test predictions based on existing theories relating to infectious disease incidence in wildlife populations using a combination of remote sensing, geospatial processing, climate modeling, and ensemble distribution modeling.