White-tailed deer (WTD; Odocoileus virginianus) are the definitive hosts of meningeal worm (Parelaphostrongylus tenuis) and liver fluke (Fascioloides magna); two parasites implicated in the decline of moose populations (Alces alces) in northern USA. Understanding which areas pose transmission risk may contribute to effective mitigation of these parasites in imperiled moose populations. Our objective was to predict areas of potential P. tenuis and F. magna transmission risk in terms of landscape features and deer density. Analyses were based on biogeographic and ecological factors related to both parasites. Using ecological niche modeling tools, remote sensing satellite data, field sampling, and estimated densities of WTD in Minnesota, we characterized current suitable environmental conditions for F. magna and P. tenuis across the historical range of moose in the state and identified potential areas for the occurrence of these parasites in unsampled areas. Our results help elucidate risky landscapes for F. magna and P. tenuis transmission by identifying geographic locations where WTD occur at high densities and with the landscape features suitable for the parasites. High-risk areas identified by our models may guide future surveillance, conservation, and management plans by identifying hotspots of potential infection of these parasites from WTD to moose populations. Our study shows the applicability of ecological niche modeling tools for investigating disease transmission risks of complex parasite systems for conservation purposes.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was partially supported by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF) as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR). Additional funding was provided by Minnesota’s Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment.
© 2019, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.
- Fascioloides magna
- Niche modeling
- Parelaphostrongylus tenuis