Climate Change

Our research is focused on the effect of Anthropogenic Climate Change on emerging infectious disease, species extinction, phenology and shifts in species’ distributions.

Climate change is associated with an increase in emerging infection diseases and species extinctions. Dr Rob Puschendorf and collaborators were amongst the first to link tropical amphibian decline to a climate-stimulated increase in the virulence of lethal amphibian viruses (Pounds et al 2006). In his most recent published work (Price et al 2019), Rob turned his attention to amphibians in the UK, showing that higher temperatures drive increasing severity of ranavirus epidemics. The results of field observation and laboratory experiments using cell culture were combined with climate projections to predict how severe ranavirosis outbreaks will spread over wider areas and an extended season.

In a project led by Dr Miguel Franco and Dr Paul Ramsay, PhD student Nicola Steer is completing work on a new conceptual model to describe the temporal dynamics of phenological events. This differs from previous phenological models as it strictly defines and quantifies the essential aspects of the phenological time distribution such that the influence that both biological and environmental (climate-linked) factors can be interpreted. In collaboration with several external data providers (e.g. MBA UK, Fundación Migres Spain & Rothampstead Research) the team are applying this model to decadal changes in Japanese cherry tree flowering, marine plankton phenology, bird migration across the Straits of Gibraltar, and UK moth abundance.

Citizen science is increasingly recognised as a powerful tool to monitor ACC impact on the natural world. In collaboration with Dr Alison Smith (PlantLife), Paul Ramsay is developing the use of smartphones to monitor the timing of forest canopy closure and so increase our capacity to capture spatio-temporal variation in this critical phenological event (Smith & Ramsay 2018).

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Selected publications

Pounds JA, Puschendorf R, et al. (2006). Widespread amphibian extinctions from epidemic disease driven by global warming. Nature 439: 161-167.

Price SJ, … Puschendorf R, et al (2019). Effects of historic and projected climate change on the range and impacts of an emerging infectious disease. Global Change Biology

Smith AM & Ramsay PM (2018) A comparison of ground-based methods for estimating canopy closure for use in phenology research. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 252: 18–26.