Livestock helminths in a changing climate: approaches to meaningful predictions
Climate change is a driving force for livestock parasite risk. This is especially true for helminths including the nematodes Haemonchus contortus, Teladorsagia circumcincta, Nematodirus battus, and the trematode Fasciola hepatica, since survival and development of free-living stages is chiefly affected by temperature and moisture. The paucity of long term predictions of helminth risk under climate change has driven us to explore optimal modelling approaches and identify current bottlenecks to generating meaningful predictions. We classify approaches as correlative or mechanistic, exploring their strengths and limitations. Climate is one aspect of a complex system and, at the farm level, husbandry has a dominant influence on helminth transmission. Continuing environmental change will necessitate the adoption of mitigation and adaptation strategies in husbandry. Long term predictive models need to have the architecture to incorporate these changes. Ultimately, an optimal modelling approach is likely to combine mechanistic processes and physiological thresholds with correlative bioclimatic modelling, incorporating changes in livestock husbandry and disease control. Irrespective of approach, the principal limitation to parasite predictions is the availability of active surveillance data and empirical data on physiological responses to climate variables. By combining improved empirical data and refined models with a broad view of the livestock system, robust projections of helminth risk can be developed.
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