Future higher temperatures in the Norwegian Arctic, including the Barents Sea, will likely cause several pathogens (parasites, bacteria, viruses) to extend their distributions northward (Tryland et al., 2009). The prevalence and abundance of pathogens may also change. Such a change in distribution of pathogens may have several consequences for both wild and domesticated animals, which are difficult to predict due to a lack of data.
However, the following responses may be predicted with fair certainty:
- Cod farming is likely to become impossible along larger parts of the coast due to more northerly distribution of a highly pathogenic bacterium
- Proliferative kidney disease, a disease which has been associated with severe declines in salmonid populations in Switzerland and England, will probably become more common
- Abundance of certain nematodes in musk ox and reindeer will probably increase, resulting in more severe impacts
Potential effects, that are harder to predict, include: invasions of new pathogens in a large number of animal host species; and changed abundance/prevalence of established pathogens. In addition to effects on single host species, this may also affect the overall dynamics of Barents Sea ecosystem (Tryland et al., 2009).
Specific research priorities to help predict impacts the of climate change on animal diseases suggested in the in the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA, 2005), include:
- Collection of baseline data on health parameters, as well as distribution, epidemiology and effects of pathogens and diseases in wild animal populations
- Studies that are focused on separating the effects of different climate variables on the dynamics of pathogens and disease in animals and humans (zoonoses)
- Forecasting temporal and spatial effects of climate change on pathogen and host populations
It will be important that scientific investigations take an inter-disciplinary approach benefiting from collaborations between ecologists and infectious diseases biologists. Investigations should focus on key host species and key pathogens within the Barents Sea ecosystem, and should include screenings and epidemiological studies (retrospective and real time), case studies, dynamic food-web modeling and experimental studies (ACIA, 2005).