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Classroom Resources: Is a Warmer World a Sicker World?

Article by Roberta Kwok

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Discussion Questions

1.    What are the competing hypotheses regarding the effect of climate change on the range where a disease can be transmitted? What assumptions underlie the predictions about the effect of warming on the spread of malaria?
2.    Could climate change decrease or eliminate some diseases? How?
3.    What does it mean that “disease ecology is made up of a multitude of moving parts”? Can you provide examples illustrating the importance of social, demographic, economic or political factors that can influence disease transmission or spread?
4.    How can biodiversity provide a buffer for disease transmission? Can it have the opposite effect in some cases?
5.    Should conservation biologists be concerned about the extinction of parasite species? Why or why not?

Websites for Further Information

•    EcoHealth 101:

•    World Health Organization’s Health and Environment Linkages Initiative:

•    WHO’s page on climate change and health:

•    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s page on climate change and health:

•    AMNH Science Bulletins- Biodiversity boosts human health:

Climate Change and Health in the News

•    As Earth Warms Up, Tropical Virus Moves to Italy (New York Times, December 23, 2007):

•    Human Adaptation to Climate Change Aids Mosquito Spread (Discovery News, January 27, 2009):

Peer-reviewed Literature (in addition to the citations listed in the article)

•    Suzán G., E. Marcé, J.T. Giermakowski, J.N. Mills, G. Ceballos, R.S. Ostfeld, B. Armién, J.M. Pascale, and T.L.Yates. 2009. Experimental Evidence for Reduced Rodent Diversity Causing Increased Hantavirus Prevalence. PLoS ONE 4(5): e5461 (

•    Anyamba, A., J.P. Chretien, J. Small, C.J. Tucker, P.B. Formenty, J.H. Richardson, S.C. Britch, D.C. Schnabelf, R.L. Erickson, and K.J. Linthicum.  2009. Prediction of a Rift Valley fever outbreak. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106: 955-959.

•    Harvell, C.D., C.E. Mitchell, J.R. Ward, S. Altizer, A.P. Dobson, R.S. Ostfeld, and M.D. Samuel. 2002. Climate warming and disease risks for terrestrial and marine  biota. Science 296: 2158-2162.

•    Ostfeld, R.S., and F. Keesing. 2000. Biodiversity and disease risk: the case of Lyme disease. Conservation Biology 14: 1-7.

Key Concepts

•    Disease ecology
•    Climate change
•    Parasites
•    Species range shifts

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