9 Jun 2015

Biosecurity in Mountains and Northern Ecosystems

Submitted by ohsadmin

An iInternational workshop on "Biosecurity in Mountains and Northern Ecosystems" was held in June 2015:

Cold spots are turning hot

Mountain areas and arctic ecosystems have many things in common: they are nearly pristine, are facing rapid climate change and are subjected to increased tourism and trade with the rest of the world. At the same time they consist of cold-adapted species, making them particularly vulnerable to pressures like climate change and invasion by all types of organisms, including plants, animals and pathogens causing human, animal and plant diseases.

To better understand the current threats and future challenges, a workshop was held bringing together ecologists with specialists in human and animal health from 12 countries working in arctic ecosystems and mountains across the globe.

A local example was presented involving ticks moving northwards bringing with them a suitcase of micro-organisms such as the virus causing tick-borne encephalitis and the spirochetes causing borreliosis in humans. An example for mountain areas is malaria, recently recognized as a climate-sensitive infection now moving up the mountains. The more than 2 million semi-domesticated reindeer in the Arctic may be at risk from the midge-borne virus blue tongue and the mosquito-borne West-Nile fever. Additionally, spreading plants (native and alien) and changes in species interactions are affecting biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.

The broad perspectives represented at this workshop including plants, animals, humans and pathogens in the vulnerable cold ecosystems of mountains and the far north, revealed imminent threats and data gaps that have thus far been neglected by scientists as well as policy makers. The success of the workshop highlights the value in working together across disciplines to address emerging biosecurity issues in cold environments.

Contact persons:

Birgitta Evengård, Professor of infectious diseases at Umeå University; birgitta.evengård [at] umu.se

Ann Milbau, Assistant professor in Plant Ecology, Abisko Naturvetenskapliga Station, Umeå University, ann.milbau [at] umu.se

The workshop was sponsored by:

Marcus Wallenbergs Stiftelse for Internationellt Vetenskapligt Samarbete; The Mountain Research Initiative (MRI); Stiftelsen Oscar och Lilli Lamms Minne; ARCUM (Arctic Research Centre of Umeå University); CIRC (Climate Impacts Research Centre).