Disease ecology of avian malaria - Event Details

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Disease ecology of avian malaria

Location: Wentworth 1

TITLE: Disease ecology of avian malaria in introduced and native birds in lowland Hawaiʻi

SPEAKER: Dr. Katherine McClure, Atkinson Postdoctoral Fellow, Cornell University

ABSTRACT: Anthropogenic processes have altered habitats, introduced non-native species, and reduced native biodiversity, resulting in substantial changes in vector and host communities, but the consequences for pathogen transmission are poorly understood. In lowland Hawaiʻi, bird communities are composed of primarily introduced species, with scattered populations of abundant native species. We examined the influence of native and introduced bird species on the prevalence of avian malaria (Plasmodium relictum) in the primary vector of avian malaria in Hawaiʻi, the southern house mosquito (Culex quinquefasciatus) in 8 lowland wet forest fragments on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi. We also explored landscape, larval habitat, and climate drivers of Cx. quinquefasciatus abundance, and examined the reciprocal effect of malaria transmission on native host populations. Avian malaria infection prevalence in mosquitoes increased with the density of native birds and host community competence, but was uncorrelated with host diversity. Vector abundance was positively correlated with the proportion of surrounding developed land and the availability of larval habitat, suggesting that conversion of natural habitats to residential and agricultural land increases mosquito larval habitats, increasing the abundance of Cx. quinquefasciatus. Finally, avian malaria transmission reduced population growth rates of Hawai‘i ʻamakihi (Chlorodrepanis virens) by 7-14%, but mortality from malaria could not explain gaps in this species’ distribution at our sites. Taken together, our results suggest that native host species increase pathogen transmission to mosquitoes, but introduced species can also support malaria transmission alone. The increase in pathogen transmission with native bird abundance suggests that native birds may be the dominant amplification hosts of avian malaria in communities where they occur, which could in turn impact their own populations. Higher vector abundance at sites without native birds—driven by effects of land use change associated with development—overwhelmed the effects of host community composition on transmission in our study, further impeding the recovery of native Hawaiian avifauna impacted by mosquito-borne disease.

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Tags: avian malaria birds avifauna disease ecology disease ecology research hawaii

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