EcoHealth

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 205–216

The Interplay of Plant and Animal Disease in a Changing Landscape: The Role of Sudden Aspen Decline in Moderating Sin Nombre Virus Prevalence in Natural Deer Mouse Populations

Authors

    • Department of BiologyFort Lewis College
  • Julie Korb
    • Department of BiologyFort Lewis College
  • Sara Bombaci
    • Department of BiologyFort Lewis College
  • Nellie McLean
    • Department of BiologyFort Lewis College
  • Joni Ghachu
    • Department of BiologyFort Lewis College
  • Lacey Hart
    • Department of BiologyFort Lewis College
  • Ashley Kelly
    • Department of BiologyFort Lewis College
  • Edlin Jara-Molinar
    • Department of BiologyFort Lewis College
  • Colleen O’Brien
    • Department of BiologyFort Lewis College
  • Kimberly Wright
    • Department of BiologyFort Lewis College
Original Contribution

DOI: 10.1007/s10393-012-0765-7

Cite this article as:
Lehmer, E.M., Korb, J., Bombaci, S. et al. EcoHealth (2012) 9: 205. doi:10.1007/s10393-012-0765-7

Abstract

We examined how climate-mediated forest dieback regulates zoonotic disease prevalence using the relationship between sudden aspen decline (SAD) and Sin Nombre virus (SNV) as a model system. We compared understory plant community structure, small mammal community composition, and SNV prevalence on 12 study sites within aspen forests experiencing levels of SAD ranging from <10.0% crown fade to >95.0% crown fade. Our results show that sites with the highest levels of SAD had reduced canopy cover, stand density, and basal area, and these differences were reflected by reductions in understory vegetation cover. Conversely, sites with the highest levels of SAD had greater understory standing biomass, suggesting that vegetation on these sites was highly clustered. Changes in forest and understory vegetation structure likely resulted in shifts in small mammal community composition across the SAD gradient, as we found reduced species diversity and higher densities of deer mice, the primary host for SNV, on sites with the highest levels of SAD. Sites with the highest levels of SAD also had significantly greater SNV prevalence compared to sites with lower levels of SAD, which is likely a result of their abundance of deer mice. Collectively, results of our research provide strong evidence to show SAD has considerable impacts on vegetation community structure, small mammal density and biodiversity and the prevalence of SNV.

Keywords

hantavirusSin Nombre virussudden aspen declinedeer micePeromyscus maniculatusforest diebackclimate change

Copyright information

© International Association for Ecology and Health 2012