February 25, 2014

Honeybee trade is hotbed for carrying disease into wild and other wildlife health news stories

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Study reveals new ways deadly squirrelpox is transmitted to red squirrels

Native red squirrels have declined throughout Britain and Ireland for the last century due to a combination of habitat loss and the introduction of the North American eastern grey squirrel. But more recently its few remaining populations have been devastated by an insidious pox virus passed to them by the alien invaders.

A study by the biodiversity and conservation research centre Quercus at Queen's University Belfast (QUB), and published in the journal PLOS ONE, found the situation may be worse than previously thought as the disease appears to have multiple modes of potential transmission. The project was part-funded by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) through the Natural Heritage Research Partnership (NHRP) with Quercus, Queen's University Belfast and part-funded by the People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES).

Invading grey squirrels, which harbour the disease but typically do not suffer symptoms, may pass the virus in their urine. The research team conducted experiments to examine the survival of the virus outside the body in the wider environment, showing that it persists best in warm dry conditions. This raises the possibility that infected grey squirrels could pass on the disease by uninfected squirrels coming into contact with their dried urine during spring and summer.

The virus was also found in the parasites of pox positive squirrels including fleas, mites and ticks, which are capable of carrying the disease between individuals or between the species.

24 Feb 2014

Honeybee trade is hotbed for carrying disease into wild

HONEYBEES have been busy – spreading diseases to insects that pollinate crops. It seems imported honeybees are an important reservoir for viruses that kill wild pollinators, which could lead to a meltdown in the planet's pollination services.

World trade in honeybee colonies contributes to honey production and also plays a vital role in agriculture – in some cases there would be no crop without the pollinators.

Honeybee colonies in Europe and North America have suffered recent mysterious declines. But now it seems the colonies could be just as much of a threat to wild pollinators such as bumblebees and the many species of "solitary" bees.

Matthias F├╝rst of Royal Holloway, University of London tracked the geographical prevalence in the UK of a non-native parasite called deformed wing virus (DWV) that is often found in both honeybees and bumblebees. The virus is spread by a mite and typically kills bees within 48 hours. The pattern of spread showed that imported honeybees are the major source of infection for the wild pollinators, and that emerging diseases spread by those colonies could be a major cause of mortality in the wild

New Scientist
19 February 2014
Fred Pearce

Cited Journal Article

Coral off WA suffers shocking damage from marine heatwaves, scientists say

Study reveals that remote reef with coral hundreds of years old has undergone severe bleaching and ‘decimation’

Marine heatwaves have wreaked “almost unprecedented” damage to ancient coral off Western Australia’s Pilbara coast, scientists say.

Preliminary results from a five-year year study of the coastline revealed that a remote section of reef south of Barrow Island has suffered severe “bleaching and decimation”, according to the CSIRO, which is running the study with the University of Western Australia.

An extreme “bleaching event” in 2011 was known to have caused significant damage to the reef. But the study found another marine heatwave, in the summer of 2012-13, also caused trauma to the reef, including to its massive, 400-year old porites corals.

The Guardian
13 Feb 2013
Michael Safi
Location: Western Australia

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