Publications by authors named "Diederik Strubbe"

24 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Potential for invasion of traded birds under climate and land-cover change.

Glob Chang Biol 2022 Jul 18. Epub 2022 Jul 18.

'Rui Nabeiro' Biodiversity Chair, CHANGE-MED Institute, University of Évora, Évora, Portugal.

Humans have moved species away from their native ranges since the Neolithic, but globalization accelerated the rate at which species are being moved. We fitted more than half million distribution models for 610 traded bird species on the CITES list to examine the separate and joint effects of global climate and land-cover change on their potential end-of-century distributions. We found that climate-induced suitability for modelled invasive species increases with latitude, because traded birds are mainly of tropical origin and much of the temperate region is 'tropicalizing.' Conversely, the tropics are becoming more arid, thus limiting the potential from cross-continental invasion by tropical species. This trend is compounded by forest loss around the tropics since most traded birds are forest dwellers. In contrast, net gains in forest area across the temperate region could compound climate change effects and increase the potential for colonization of low-latitude birds. Climate change has always led to regional redistributions of species, but the combination of human transportation, climate, and land-cover changes will likely accelerate the redistribution of species globally, increasing chances of alien species successfully invading non-native lands. Such process of biodiversity homogenization can lead to emergence of non-analogue communities with unknown environmental and socioeconomic consequences.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/gcb.16310DOI Listing
July 2022

Exploring the Effects of Geopolitical Shifts on Global Wildlife Trade.

Bioscience 2022 Jun 6;72(6):560-572. Epub 2022 Apr 6.

University of Porto, Porto, Portugal.

International wildlife trade is a major driver of species extinction and biological invasions. Anticipating environmental risks requires inferences about trade patterns, which are shaped by geopolitics. Although the future cannot be predicted, scenarios can help deal with the uncertainty of future geopolitical dynamics. We propose a framework for generating and analyzing scenarios based on four geopolitical storylines, distinguished by combinations of international trade barrier strength and domestic law enforcement degree across countries supplying and demanding wildlife. We then use historical data on bird trade to classify countries into geopolitical profiles and confirm that trade barriers and law enforcement allow predicting bird trade patterns, supporting our scenarios' plausibility and enabling projections for future global bird trade. Our framework can be used to examine the consequences of geopolitical changes for wildlife trade and to advise policy and legislation. Reducing demand for wildlife and ameliorating global inequality are key for curbing trade related risks.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biac015DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9180917PMC
June 2022

Impacts of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic on the global demand for exotic pets: An expert elicitation approach.

Glob Ecol Conserv 2022 Jun 17;35:e02067. Epub 2022 Feb 17.

CIBIO/InBIO,Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos, Universidade do Porto, Campus Agrário de Vairão, 4485‑661 Vairão, Portugal.

The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has caused immense social and economic costs worldwide. Most experts endorse the view that the virus has a zoonotic origin with the final spillover being associated with wildlife trade. Besides human consumption, wild animals are also extensively traded as pets. Information on zoonotic diseases has been reported to reduce consumer demand for exotic pets. We conducted a global survey and collected 162 responses from international experts on exotic pet trade (traders, academics, NGOs, enforcement entities) to understand how the legal and illegal trade of exotic pets is expected to be affected by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Our results suggest that legal purchase of exotic pets is perceived as decreasing during the first pandemic wave due to: lower availability of animals for trade, suppliers' inability to reach consumers and social distancing measures. The general perception is that in the future (i.e., next five years), both demand and supply of legally traded exotic pets are expected to either remain unchanged or decrease only temporarily. The consumer demand for illegal exotic pets is also expected to remain unchanged following the outbreak. The top two challenges reported by respondents, when considering the consequences of the pandemic for the exotic pet trade, are inadequate enforcement of national regulations and increased illegal trade. Our results suggest that the negative consequences of a zoonotic outbreak may not dissuade consumers of exotic pets. Worldwide, the transit/storing conditions and lack of health screenings of traded live animals are conducive to spreading diseases. Consumer demand is a key driver of trade, and enforcement of trade regulations will remain challenging, unless factors driving consumer demand are adequately incorporated in problem-solving frameworks. We emphasize the complexity of trade dynamics and the need to go beyond bans on wildlife trade. Stronger law enforcement, implemented along with initiatives dissuading consumption of wild exotic pets, are essential to sustainably satisfy the market demand.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2022.e02067DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8849832PMC
June 2022

Epidermal galactose spurs chytrid virulence and predicts amphibian colonization.

Nat Commun 2021 10 4;12(1):5788. Epub 2021 Oct 4.

Wildlife Health Ghent, Department of Pathology, Bacteriology and Poultry Diseases, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Merelbeke, Belgium.

The chytrid fungal pathogens Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis and Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans cause the skin disease chytridiomycosis in amphibians, which is driving a substantial proportion of an entire vertebrate class to extinction. Mitigation of its impact is largely unsuccessful and requires a thorough understanding of the mechanisms underpinning the disease ecology. By identifying skin factors that mediate key events during the early interaction with B. salamandrivorans zoospores, we discovered a marker for host colonization. Amphibian skin associated beta-galactose mediated fungal chemotaxis and adhesion to the skin and initiated a virulent fungal response. Fungal colonization correlated with the skin glycosylation pattern, with cutaneous galactose content effectively predicting variation in host susceptibility to fungal colonization between amphibian species. Ontogenetic galactose patterns correlated with low level and asymptomatic infections in salamander larvae that were carried over through metamorphosis, resulting in juvenile mortality. Pronounced variation of galactose content within some, but not all species, may promote the selection for more colonization resistant host lineages, opening new avenues for disease mitigation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-26127-9DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8490390PMC
October 2021

Shape Analysis as an Additional Tool in Roe Deer () Management: A New Approach Based on the Relationship between Mandible Shape and Trophic Resources.

Animals (Basel) 2021 May 29;11(6). Epub 2021 May 29.

School of Biosciences and Veterinary Medicine, University of Camerino, 62032 Camerino, Italy.

The analysis of body shape variability has always been a central element in biology. More recently, geometric morphometry has developed as a new field in shape analysis, with the aim to study body morphological variations and the identification of their causes. In wildlife management, geometric morphometry could be a useful tool to compare the anatomical structures of an organism and quantify its geometric information in order to relate them to environmental factors, thus identifying the causes and effects of the variation and acting management and/or conservation plans. The aim of our study is to evaluate the relationship between roe deer mandible shape and trophic resources available during autumn and winter. We applied a geometric morphometry approach consisting of a Relative Warp analysis of landmark data in 26 roe deer fawn mandibles. Each sample was assigned to an age category and to an environmental category based on the territory carrying capacity. The mandible shape of samples under 8 months of age is likely influenced by the availability of trophic resources. Our findings suggest that the mandible shape is a reliable instrument to assess resource availability. Geometric morphometry could thus represent an additional tool for roe deer management.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ani11061611DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8228368PMC
May 2021

Grading fecal consistency in an omnivorous carnivore, the brown bear: Abandoning the concept of uniform feces.

Zoo Biol 2021 May 12;40(3):182-191. Epub 2021 Feb 12.

Department of Nutrition, Genetics and Ethology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Merelbeke, Belgium.

Grading the fecal consistency of carnivores is a frequently used tool for monitoring gut health and overall digestion. Several fecal consistency grading systems are available for mainly felids and canids. No such system exists for the brown bear (Ursus arctos Linnaeus, 1758). We aim at extending current fecal consistency grading systems with a scoring system for brown bears. The system was set up during a diet study with nine individuals fed a variety of diets including beef meat, rabbit, fruit, and grass-fruit-pellet mix in an incomplete crossover design. One additional individual was included opportunistically and was fed the typical zoo diet (vegetable-fruit-meat-pellet diet). All feces from the collection period were photographed, graded by "handling the feces" and visually inspected for dietary components. Based on a total of 446 feces, a six-point scale for uniform fecal consistencies was established. In 11% of all feces, two distinct consistencies could be distinguished, a feature that appears in other carnivore species as well. Hence, an additional grading system for dual consistencies was developed. The fecal consistency of brown bears is heavily dependent on the diet items processed before defecation with the general observation that the more vegetation or whole prey, the firmer the feces, and at certain proportions of the latter, the higher the chance for dual fecal consistencies to occur. The results indicate that in bears, diet may have a strong effect on fecal consistency, hampering animal health assessments without prior knowledge of the diet.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/zoo.21593DOI Listing
May 2021

A checklist recipe: making species data open and FAIR.

Database (Oxford) 2020 01;2020

Meise Botanic Garden, Nieuwelaan 38, B-1860 Meise, Belgium.

Species checklists are a crucial source of information for research and policy. Unfortunately, many traditional species checklists vary wildly in their content, format, availability and maintenance. The fact that these are not open, findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (FAIR) severely hampers fast and efficient information flow to policy and decision-making that are required to tackle the current biodiversity crisis. Here, we propose a reproducible, semi-automated workflow to transform traditional checklist data into a FAIR and open species registry. We showcase our workflow by applying it to the publication of the Manual of Alien Plants, a species checklist specifically developed for the Tracking Invasive Alien Species (TrIAS) project. Our approach combines source data management, reproducible data transformation to Darwin Core using R, version control, data documentation and publication to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). This checklist publication workflow is openly available for data holders and applicable to species registries varying in thematic, taxonomic or geographical scope and could serve as an important tool to open up research and strengthen environmental decision-making.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/database/baaa084DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7661093PMC
January 2020

Presence of low virulence chytrid fungi could protect European amphibians from more deadly strains.

Nat Commun 2020 10 26;11(1):5393. Epub 2020 Oct 26.

Wildlife Health Ghent, Department of Pathology, Bacteriology and Avian Diseases, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, B-9820, Merelbeke, Belgium.

Wildlife diseases are contributing to the current Earth's sixth mass extinction; one disease, chytridiomycosis, has caused mass amphibian die-offs. While global spread of a hypervirulent lineage of the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (BdGPL) causes unprecedented loss of vertebrate diversity by decimating amphibian populations, its impact on amphibian communities is highly variable across regions. Here, we combine field data with in vitro and in vivo trials that demonstrate the presence of a markedly diverse variety of low virulence isolates of BdGPL in northern European amphibian communities. Pre-exposure to some of these low virulence isolates protects against disease following subsequent exposure to highly virulent BdGPL in midwife toads (Alytes obstetricans) and alters infection dynamics of its sister species B. salamandrivorans in newts (Triturus marmoratus), but not in salamanders (Salamandra salamandra). The key role of pathogen virulence in the complex host-pathogen-environment interaction supports efforts to limit pathogen pollution in a globalized world.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-19241-7DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7589487PMC
October 2020

Identifying trade-offs between biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services delivery for land-use decisions.

Sci Rep 2020 05 14;10(1):7971. Epub 2020 May 14.

Evolutionary Ecology Group, Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, Universiteitsplein 1, 2610, Wilrijk, Belgium.

Sustainable land-use management must account for the potential trade-offs between biodiversity conservation, productive land uses and ecosystem services. In this study, we used Marxan with Zones to generate land use plans that optimize conservation, farming and forestry land uses to reach biodiversity targets while minimizing the opportunity cost for local communities in an inhabited but data-poor National Park in the Andes of Bolivia. Based on six alternative land-use plans, we identified the synergies and trade-offs between the biodiversity benefits achieved in the different plans and the delivery of four locally important water-related ecosystem services modeled with the web-based tool AguAAndes. Although we find synergies between the conservation of high altitude Polylepis woodlands and their associated avifauna and three of the ecosystem services investigated, soil erosion levels were actually higher in scenarios with higher achieved biodiversity benefits. Our study shows how systematic conservation planning and ecosystem service delivery modelling can be used to solve land-use conflicts and identify trade-offs between biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services in a data-poor tropical area.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-64668-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7224365PMC
May 2020

Mediterranean versus Atlantic monk parakeets Myiopsitta monachus: towards differentiated management at the European scale.

Pest Manag Sci 2019 Apr 19;75(4):915-922. Epub 2019 Feb 19.

Behavioural and Evolutionary Ecology Unit, Museu de Ciències Naturals de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.

Background: The monk parakeet Myiopsitta monachus (Boddaert), native to South America, is an invasive species in several European countries, causing crop damage and potential negative impacts on wildlife. Only Spain and Great Britain have regulations to control monk parakeets, thus fast growth and spread of populations are likely to occur on a wide scale. The aims of this research are to update information on the distribution and population size of monk parakeets in Europe, assess whether differences in population growth or spread rate exist between populations, and provide recommendations to decision-makers.

Results: Our study estimates that there are 23 758 monk parakeets in the wild, across 179 municipalities in eight European Union (EU) countries; 84% of these municipalities hold between 1 and 100 monk parakeets. All countries with a representative historical record are experiencing exponential growth of monk parakeets. Mediterranean countries are experiencing higher exponential growth, spread rate and faster colonization of new municipalities than Atlantic countries.

Conclusions: We recommend that EU Mediterranean countries consider declaration of the monk parakeet as invasive alien species of regional concern, and develop coordinated efforts to monitor and manage the species, taking advantage of the low population sizes in most municipalities. © 2019 Society of Chemical Industry.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ps.5320DOI Listing
April 2019

Mitigating the impact of microbial pressure on great (Parus major) and blue (Cyanistes caeruleus) tit hatching success through maternal immune investment.

PLoS One 2018 4;13(10):e0204022. Epub 2018 Oct 4.

Department of Pathology, Bacteriology and Avian Diseases, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Merelbeke, Belgium.

The hatching success of a bird's egg is one of the key determinants of avian reproductive success, which may be compromised by microbial infections causing embryonic death. During incubation, outer eggshell bacterial communities pose a constant threat of pathogen translocation and embryo infection. One of the parental strategies to mitigate this threat is the incorporation of maternal immune factors into the egg albumen and yolk. It has been suggested that habitat changes like forest fragmentation can affect environmental factors and life-history traits that are linked to egg contamination. This study aims at investigating relationships between microbial pressure, immune investment and hatching success in two abundant forest bird species and analyzing to what extent these are driven by extrinsic (environmental) factors. We here compared (1) the bacterial load and composition on eggshells, (2) the level of immune defenses in eggs, and (3) the reproductive success between great (Parus major) and blue (Cyanistes caeruleus) tits in Belgium and examined if forest fragmentation affects these parameters. Analysis of 70 great tit and 34 blue tit eggshells revealed a similar microbiota composition (Enterobacteriaceae, Lactobacillus spp., Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes), but higher bacterial loads in great tits. Forest fragmentation was not identified as an important explanatory variable. Although a significant negative correlation between hatching success and bacterial load on the eggshells in great tits corroborates microbial pressure to be a driver of embryonic mortality, the overall hatching success was only marginally lower than in blue tits. This may be explained by the significantly higher levels of lysozyme and IgY in the eggs of great tits, protecting the embryo from increased infection pressure. Our results show that immune investment in eggs is suggested to be a species-specific adaptive trait that serves to protect hatchlings from pathogen pressure, which is not directly linked to habitat fragmentation.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0204022PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6171831PMC
March 2019

Do wild-caught urban house sparrows show desensitized stress responses to a novel stressor?

Biol Open 2018 Jun 15;7(6). Epub 2018 Jun 15.

Terrestrial Ecology Unit, Department of Biology, Ghent University, K.L. Ledeganckstraat 35, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium.

While urbanization exposes individuals to novel challenges, urban areas may also constitute stable environments in which seasonal fluctuations are buffered. Baseline and stress-induced plasma corticosterone (cort) levels are often found to be similar in urban and rural populations. Here we aimed to disentangle two possible mechanisms underlying such pattern: (i) urban environments are no more stressful or urban birds have a better ability to habituate to stressors; or (ii) urban birds developed desensitized stress responses. We exposed wild-caught urban and rural house sparrows () to combined captivity and diet treatments (urban versus rural diet) and measured corticosterone levels both in natural tail feathers and in regrown homologous ones (cort). Urban and rural house sparrows showed similar cort levels in the wild and in response to novel stressors caused by the experiment, supporting the growing notion that urban environments are no more stressful during the non-breeding season than are rural ones. Still, juveniles and males originating from urban populations showed the highest cort levels in regrown feathers. We did not find evidence that cort was consistent within individuals across moults. Our study stresses the need for incorporating both intrinsic and environmental factors for the interpretation of variation in cort between populations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1242/bio.031849DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6031342PMC
June 2018

Effects of urbanization on host-pathogen interactions, using Yersinia in house sparrows as a model.

PLoS One 2017 27;12(12):e0189509. Epub 2017 Dec 27.

Department of Pathology, Bacteriology and Avian Diseases, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Merelbeke, Belgium.

Urbanization strongly affects biodiversity, altering natural communities and often leading to a reduced species richness. Yet, despite its increasingly recognized importance, how urbanization impacts on the health of individual animals, wildlife populations and on disease ecology remains poorly understood. To test whether, and how, urbanization-driven ecosystem alterations influence pathogen dynamics and avian health, we use house sparrows (Passer domesticus) and Yersinia spp. (pathogenic for passerines) as a case study. Sparrows are granivorous urban exploiters, whose western European populations have declined over the past decades, especially in highly urbanized areas. We sampled 329 house sparrows originating from 36 populations along an urbanization gradient across Flanders (Belgium), and used isolation combined with 'matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization- time of flight mass spectrometry' (MALDI-TOF MS) and PCR methods for detecting the presence of different Yersinia species. Yersinia spp. were recovered from 57.43% of the sampled house sparrows, of which 4.06%, 53.30% and 69.54% were identified as Y. pseudotuberculosis, Y. enterocolitica and other Yersinia species, respectively. Presence of Yersinia was related to the degree of urbanization, average daily temperatures and the community of granivorous birds present at sparrow capture locations. Body condition of suburban house sparrows was found to be higher compared to urban and rural house sparrows, but no relationships between sparrows' body condition and presence of Yersinia spp. were found. We conclude that two determinants of pathogen infection dynamics, body condition and pathogen occurrence, vary along an urbanization gradient, potentially mediating the impact of urbanization on avian health.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0189509PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5744950PMC
January 2018

Networks of global bird invasion altered by regional trade ban.

Sci Adv 2017 11 22;3(11):e1700783. Epub 2017 Nov 22.

Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, Universitetsparken 15, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark.

Wildlife trade is a major pathway for introduction of invasive species worldwide. However, how exactly wildlife trade influences invasion risk, beyond the transportation of individuals to novel areas, remains unknown. We analyze the global trade network of wild-caught birds from 1995 to 2011 as reported by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). We found that before the European Union ban on imports of wild-caught birds, declared in 2005, invasion risk was closely associated with numbers of imported birds, diversity of import sources, and degree of network centrality of importer countries. After the ban, fluxes of global bird trade declined sharply. However, new trade routes emerged, primarily toward the Nearctic, Afrotropical, and Indo-Malay regions. Although regional bans can curtail invasion risk globally, to be fully effective and prevent rerouting of trade flows, bans should be global.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.1700783DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5699901PMC
November 2017

Inside the guts of the city: Urban-induced alterations of the gut microbiota in a wild passerine.

Sci Total Environ 2018 Jan 8;612:1276-1286. Epub 2017 Sep 8.

Laboratoire Evolution & Diversité Biologique, UMR 5174 CNRS-Université Paul Sabatier-ENSFEA-IRD, 118 route de Narbonne, F-31062 Toulouse, France.

Urbanisation represents one of the most radical forms of terrestrial land use change and has been shown to lead to alterations in ecosystem functioning and community dynamics and changes in individual phenotypic traits. While the recent surge in microbiome studies has brought about a paradigm shift by which individuals cannot truly be considered independently of the bacterial communities they host, the role of gut microbiota in organismal response to human-induced environmental change is still scarcely studied. Here, we applied a metabarcoding approach to examine the impact of urbanisation on the gut microbiota of Passer domesticus. We found urbanisation to be associated to lower microbiota species diversity, modifications in taxonomic composition and community structure, and changes in functional composition. The strength of these relationships, however, depended on the spatial scale and season at which they were considered. Such spatio-temporal effect suggests that urbanisation may dampen the natural seasonal variation of the gut microbiota observed in more pristine habitats, potentially influencing the fitness of urban organisms. Our results hence shed light on a hitherto little considered perspective, i.e. that the negative effects of urbanisation on city-dwelling organisms may extend to their microbiomes, causing potential dysbioses.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.09.035DOI Listing
January 2018

Supplementary feeding increases nestling feather corticosterone early in the breeding season in house sparrows.

Ecol Evol 2017 08 30;7(16):6163-6171. Epub 2017 Jun 30.

Terrestrial Ecology Unit Department of Biology Ghent University Ghent Belgium.

Several studies on birds have proposed that a lack of invertebrate prey in urbanized areas could be the main cause for generally lower levels of breeding success compared to rural habitats. Previous work on house sparrows found that supplemental feeding in urbanized areas increased breeding success but did not contribute to population growth. Here, we hypothesize that supplementary feeding allows house sparrows to achieve higher breeding success but at the cost of lower nestling quality. As abundant food supplies may permit both high- and low-quality nestlings to survive, we also predict that within-brood variation in proxies of nestling quality would be larger for supplemental food broods than for unfed broods. As proxies of nestling quality, we considered feather corticosterone (CORT ), body condition (scaled mass index, SMI), and tarsus-based fluctuating asymmetry (FA). Our hypothesis was only partially supported as we did not find an overall effect of food supplementation on FA or SMI. Rather, food supplementation affected nestling phenotype only early in the breeding season in terms of elevated CORT levels and a tendency for more variable within-brood CORT and FA. Early food supplemented nests therefore seemed to include at least some nestlings that faced increased stressors during development, possibly due to harsher environmental (e.g., related to food and temperature) conditions early in the breeding season that would increase sibling competition, especially in larger broods. The fact that CORT was positively, rather than inversely, related to nestling SMI further suggests that factors influencing CORT and SMI are likely operating over different periods or, alternatively, that nestlings in good nutritional condition also invest in high-quality feathers.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ece3.3114DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5574790PMC
August 2017

Cooperative breeding shapes post-fledging survival in an Afrotropical forest bird.

Ecol Evol 2017 05 7;7(10):3489-3493. Epub 2017 Apr 7.

Terrestrial Ecology Unit Ghent University Ghent Belgium.

For avian group living to be evolutionary stable, multiple fitness benefits are expected. Yet, the difficulty of tracking fledglings, and thus estimating their survival rates, limits our knowledge on how such benefits may manifest postfledging. We radio-tagged breeding females of the Afrotropical cooperatively breeding Placid greenbul ( during nesting. Tracking these females after fledging permitted us to locate juvenile birds, their parents, and any helpers present and to build individual fledgling resighting datasets without incurring mortality costs or causing premature fledging due to handling or transmitter effects. A Bayesian framework was used to infer age-specific mortality rates in relation to group size, fledging date, maternal condition, and nestling condition. Postfledging survival was positively related to group size, with fledglings raised in groups with four helpers showing nearly 30% higher survival until independence compared with pair-only offspring, independent of fledging date, maternal condition or nestling condition. Our results demonstrate the importance of studying the early dependency period just after fledging when assessing presumed benefits of cooperative breeding. While studying small, mobile organisms after they leave the nest remains highly challenging, we argue that the telemetric approach proposed here may be a broadly applicable method to obtain unbiased estimates of postfledging survival.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ece3.2744DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5433992PMC
May 2017

Low prevalence of human enteropathogenic Yersinia spp. in brown rats (Rattus norvegicus) in Flanders.

PLoS One 2017 12;12(4):e0175648. Epub 2017 Apr 12.

Department of Pathology, Bacteriology and Avian Diseases, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Merelbeke, Belgium.

Brown rats (Rattus norvegicus) have been identified as potential carriers of Yersinia enterocolitica and Y. pseudotuberculosis, the etiological agents of yersiniosis, the third most reported bacterial zoonosis in Europe. Enteropathogenic Yersinia spp. are most often isolated from rats during yersiniosis cases in animals and humans, and from rats inhabiting farms and slaughterhouses. Information is however lacking regarding the extent to which rats act as carriers of these Yersinia spp.. In 2013, 1088 brown rats across Flanders, Belgium, were tested for the presence of Yersinia species by isolation method. Identification was performed using MALDI-TOF MS, PCR on chromosomal- and plasmid-borne virulence genes, biotyping and serotyping. Yersinia spp. were isolated from 38.4% of the rats. Of these, 53.4% were designated Y. enterocolitica, 0.7% Y. pseudotuberculosis and 49.0% other Yersinia species. Two Y. enterocolitica possessing the virF-, ail- and ystA-gene were isolated. Additionally, the ystB-gene was identified in 94.1% of the other Y. enterocolitica isolates, suggestive for biotype 1A. Three of these latter isolates simultaneously possessed the ail-virulence gene. Significantly more Y. enterocolitica were isolated during winter and spring compared to summer. Based on our findings we can conclude that brown rats are frequent carriers for various Yersinia spp., including Y. pseudotuberculosis and (human pathogenic) Y. enterocolitica which are more often isolated during winter and spring.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0175648PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5389835PMC
April 2017

The importance of realistic dispersal models in conservation planning: application of a novel modelling platform to evaluate management scenarios in an Afrotropical biodiversity hotspot.

J Appl Ecol 2016 08 31;53(4):1055-1065. Epub 2016 Mar 31.

Evolutionary Ecology Group Department of Biology University of Antwerp Groenenborgerlaan 171 2020 Antwerp Belgium.

As biodiversity hotspots are often characterized by high human population densities, implementation of conservation management practices that focus only on the protection and enlargement of pristine habitats is potentially unrealistic. An alternative approach to curb species extinction risk involves improving connectivity among existing habitat patches. However, evaluation of spatially explicit management strategies is challenging, as predictive models must account for the process of dispersal, which is difficult in terms of both empirical data collection and modelling.Here, we use a novel, individual-based modelling platform that couples demographic and mechanistic dispersal models to evaluate the effectiveness of realistic management scenarios tailored to conserve forest birds in a highly fragmented biodiversity hotspot. Scenario performance is evaluated based on the spatial population dynamics of a well-studied forest bird species.The largest population increase was predicted to occur under scenarios increasing habitat area. However, the effectiveness was sensitive to spatial planning. Compared to adding one large patch to the habitat network, adding several small patches yielded mixed benefits: although overall population sizes increased, specific newly created patches acted as dispersal sinks, which compromised population persistence in some existing patches. Increasing matrix connectivity by the creation of stepping stones is likely to result in enhanced dispersal success and occupancy of smaller patches. . We show that the effectiveness of spatial management is strongly driven by patterns of individual dispersal across landscapes. For species conservation planning, we advocate the use of models that incorporate adequate realism in demography and, particularly, in dispersal behaviours.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.12643DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5042109PMC
August 2016

Unrelenting spread of the alien monk parakeet Myiopsitta monachus in Israel. Is it time to sound the alarm?

Pest Manag Sci 2017 Feb 12;73(2):349-353. Epub 2016 Aug 12.

Biogeography, Diversity and Conservation Research Team, Department of Animal Biology, Faculty of Sciences, Universidad de Málaga, Malaga, Spain.

Background: Monk parakeets, Myiopsitta monachus Boddaert, are native to South America but have established populations in North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. They are claimed to act as agricultural pests in their native range, and their communal stick nests may damage human infrastructure. Although several monk parakeet populations are present in the Mediterranean Basin and temperate Europe, little empirical data are available on their population size and growth, distribution and potential impact. We investigated the temporal and spatial dynamics of monk parakeets in Israel to assess their invasion success and potential impact on agriculture.

Results: Monk parakeet populations are growing exponentially at a higher rate than that reported elsewhere. The current Israeli population of monk parakeets comprises approximately 1500 individuals. The distribution of the species has increased and shifted from predominantly urban areas to agricultural landscapes.

Conclusions: In Israel, monk parakeet populations are growing fast and have dispersed rapidly from cities to agricultural areas. At present, reports of agricultural damage are scarce. A complete assessment of possible management strategies is urgently needed before the population becomes too large and widespread to allow for cost-effective mitigation campaigns to be implemented. © 2016 Society of Chemical Industry.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ps.4349DOI Listing
February 2017

House Sparrows Do Not Constitute a Significant Salmonella Typhimurium Reservoir across Urban Gradients in Flanders, Belgium.

PLoS One 2016 11;11(5):e0155366. Epub 2016 May 11.

Department of Pathology, Bacteriology and Avian Diseases, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Merelbeke, Belgium.

In recent decades major declines in urban house sparrow (Passer domesticus) populations have been observed in north-western European cities, whereas suburban and rural house sparrow populations have remained relatively stable or are recovering from previous declines. Differential exposure to avian pathogens known to cause epidemics in house sparrows may in part explain this spatial pattern of declines. Here we investigate the potential effect of urbanization on the development of a bacterial pathogen reservoir in free-ranging house sparrows. This was achieved by comparing the prevalence of Salmonella enterica subspecies enterica serotype Typhimurium in 364 apparently healthy house sparrows captured in urban, suburban and rural regions across Flanders, Belgium between September 2013 and March 2014. In addition 12 dead birds, received from bird rescue centers, were necropsied. The apparent absence of Salmonella Typhimurium in fecal samples of healthy birds, and the identification of only one house sparrow seropositive for Salmonella spp., suggests that during the winter of 2013-2014 these birds did not represent any considerable Salmonella Typhimurium reservoir in Belgium and thus may be considered naïve hosts, susceptible to clinical infection. This susceptibility is demonstrated by the isolation of two different Salmonella Typhimurium strains from two of the deceased house sparrows: one DT99, typically associated with disease in pigeons, and one DT195, previously associated with a passerine decline. The apparent absence (prevalence: <1.3%) of a reservoir in healthy house sparrows and the association of infection with clinical disease suggests that the impact of Salmonella Typhimurium on house sparrows is largely driven by the risk of exogenous exposure to pathogenic Salmonella Typhimurium strains. However, no inference could be made on a causal relationship between Salmonella infection and the observed house sparrow population declines.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0155366PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4864353PMC
July 2017

Ancestral origins and invasion pathways in a globally invasive bird correlate with climate and influences from bird trade.

Mol Ecol 2015 Aug 3;24(16):4269-85. Epub 2015 Aug 3.

Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent, Marlowe Building, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NR, UK.

Invasive species present a major threat to global biodiversity. Understanding genetic patterns and evolutionary processes that reinforce successful establishment is paramount for elucidating mechanisms underlying biological invasions. Among birds, the ring-necked parakeet (Psittacula krameri) is one of the most successful invasive species, established in over 35 countries. However, little is known about the evolutionary genetic origins of this species and what population genetic signatures tell us about patterns of invasion. We reveal the ancestral origins of populations across the invasive range and explore the potential influence of climate and propagule pressure from the pet trade on observed genetic patterns. Ring-necked parakeet samples representing the ancestral native range (n = 96) were collected from museum specimens, and modern samples from the invasive range (n = 855) were gathered from across Europe, Mauritius and Seychelles, and sequenced for two mitochondrial DNA markers comprising 868 bp of cytochrome b and control region, and genotyped at 10 microsatellite loci. Invasive populations comprise birds that originate predominantly from Pakistan and northern areas of India. Haplotypes associated with more northerly distribution limits in the ancestral native range were more prevalent in invasive populations in Europe, and the predominance of Asian haplotypes in Europe is consistent with the higher number of Asian birds transported by the pet trade outside the native range. Successful establishment of invasive species is likely to be underpinned by a combination of environmental and anthropogenic influences.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/mec.13307DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4657503PMC
August 2015
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