Arctic carnivore health

Arctic regions are one of the most affected by climate change, first evidences being noted already in the 1980s. However information on wildlife population health is still limited and requires continuous monitoring.

Project details
Duration: since 03/2010
Third-party funded: no
Involved Department(s): Dept Wildlife Diseases, Dept Reproduction Biology
Leibniz-IZW Project Leader(s): Gábor Á. Czirják (Dept Wildlife Diseases)
Leibniz-IZW Project Team: Alex D. Greenwood, Kristin Mühldorfer, Oliver Krone, Gabriele Treu (all: Dept Wildlife Diseases), Katarina Jewgenow, Jella Wauters (all: Dept Reproduction Biology)
Consortium Partner(s): Icelandic Institute of Natural History (Iceland), University of Tromsø – the Arctic University of Norway (Norway), Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut – Federal Research Institute for Animal Health (FLI), Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology, University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest (Hungary), Hungarian Academy of Sciences - Institute for Veterinary Medical Research (Hungary), National Food Chain Safety Office (Hungary)
Current Funding Organisation: -
Research Foci:
Understanding wildlife health and disturbed homeostasis
Understanding the environmental context

The arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) is the only native terrestrial mammal in Iceland. Because of the relatively low biodiversity within Arctic and the involvement of the species in both marine and terrestrial ecosystems, the arctic fox population could serve as sentinel for overall ecosystem health of Iceland. Despite the long-term monitoring of the Icelandic fox population, there is almost no information on the health status of this species. In collaboration with colleagues from the Icelandic Institute of Natural History, we aim to monitor various environmental pollutants, parasites and pathogens which might threaten this and other species, including humans.

Besides providing baseline epidemiological information, we are interested on the physiological consequences (immunology, stress/allostatic load) of the sublethal exposure to environmental pollutants and the potential adaptation of the species to this geologically active environment. Recently we also obtained samples from the long-term project on polar bears (Ursus maritimus) from Svalbard, Norway, where we will measure adaptive and innate immune markers in order to better understand the effect of climate change and anthropogenic activities on Arctic biota.

Selected Publications

Treu G, Krone O, Unnsteinsdóttir ER, Greenwood AD, Czirják GÁ (2018): Correlations between hair and tissue mercury concentrations in Icelandic arctic foxes (Vulpes lagopus). SCI TOTAL ENVIRON 619-620, 1589-1598. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.10.143.

Bocharova NA*, Treu G*, Czirják GÁ*, Krone O, Stefanski V, Wibbelt G, Unnsteinsdóttir ER, Hersteinsson P, Schares G, Doronina L, Goltsman M, Greenwood AD (2013): Correlates between feeding ecology and mercury levels in historical and modern arctic foxes (Vulpes lagopus). PLOS ONE 8, e60879. doi:10.1371/journal.pone. 0060879. (*These authors contributed equally).