Avian cholera, a threat to the viability of an arctic seabird colony?
Evidence that infectious diseases cause wildlife population extirpation or extinction remains anecdotal and it is unclear whether the impacts of a pathogen at the individual level can scale up to population level so drastically. Here, we quantify the response of a Common eider colony to emerging epidemics of avian cholera, one of the most important infectious diseases affecting wild waterfowl. We show that avian cholera has the potential to drive colony extinction, even over a very short period. Extinction depends on disease severity (the impact of the disease on adult female survival) and disease frequency (the number of annual epidemics per decade). In case of epidemics of high severity (i.e., causing >30% mortality of breeding females), more than one outbreak per decade will be unsustainable for the colony and will likely lead to extinction within the next century; more than four outbreaks per decade will drive extinction to within 20 years. Such severity and frequency of avian cholera are already observed, and avian cholera might thus represent a significant threat to viability of breeding populations. However, this will depend on the mechanisms underlying avian cholera transmission, maintenance, and spread, which are currently only poorly known.
Descamps, S. (Sébastien), Jenouvrier, S. (Stéphanie), Gilchrist, H.G, & Forbes, M. (2012). Avian cholera, a threat to the viability of an arctic seabird colony?. PLoS ONE, 7(2). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029659