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1.  Movement analysis of free-grazing domestic ducks in Poyang Lake, China: a disease connection 
Previous work suggests domestic poultry are important contributors to the emergence and transmission of highly pathogenic avian influenza throughout Asia. In Poyang Lake, China, domestic duck production cycles are synchronized with arrival and departure of thousands of migratory wild birds in the area. During these periods, high densities of juvenile domestic ducks are in close proximity to migratory wild ducks, increasing the potential for the virus to be transmitted and subsequently disseminated via migration. In this paper, we use GPS dataloggers and dynamic Brownian bridge models to describe movements and habitat use of free-grazing domestic ducks in the Poyang Lake basin and identify specific areas that may have the highest risk of H5N1 transmission between domestic and wild birds. Specifically, we determine relative use by free-grazing domestic ducks of natural wetlands, which are the most heavily used areas by migratory wild ducks, and of rice paddies, which provide habitat for resident wild ducks and lower densities of migratory wild ducks. To our knowledge, this is the first movement study on domestic ducks, and our data show potential for free-grazing domestic ducks from farms located near natural wetlands to come in contact with wild waterfowl, thereby increasing the risk for disease transmission. This study provides an example of the importance of movement ecology studies in understanding dynamics such as disease transmission on a complicated landscape.
PMCID: PMC5042146  PMID: 27695384
domestic poultry; disease transmission; dynamic Brownian bridge movement model
2.  Chewing Lice of Swan Geese (Anser cygnoides): New Host-Parasite Associations 
Chewing lice (Phthiraptera) that parasitize the globally threatened swan goose Anser cygnoides have been long recognized since the early 19th century, but those records were probably biased towards sampling of captive or domestic geese due to the small population size and limited distribution of its wild hosts. To better understand the lice species parasitizing swan geese that are endemic to East Asia, we collected chewing lice from 14 wild geese caught at 3 lakes in northeastern Mongolia. The lice were morphologically identified as 16 Trinoton anserinum (Fabricius, 1805), 11 Ornithobius domesticus Arnold, 2005, and 1 Anaticola anseris (Linnaeus, 1758). These species are known from other geese and swans, but all of them were new to the swan goose. This result also indicates no overlap in lice species between older records and our findings from wild birds. Thus, ectoparasites collected from domestic or captive animals may provide biased information on the occurrence, prevalence, host selection, and host-ectoparasite interactions from those on wild hosts.
PMCID: PMC5127540  PMID: 27853128
Trinoton anserinum; Ornithobius domesticus; Anaticola anseris; chewing louse; swan goose
3.  Migration of Waterfowl in the East Asian Flyway and Spatial Relationship to HPAI H5N1 Outbreaks 
Avian diseases  2010;54(1 Suppl):466-476.
Poyang Lake is situated within the East Asian Flyway, a migratory corridor for waterfowl that also encompasses Guangdong Province, China, the epicenter of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1. The lake is the largest freshwater body in China and a significant congregation site for waterfowl; however, surrounding rice fields and poultry grazing have created an overlap with wild waterbirds, a situation conducive to avian influenza transmission. Reports of HPAI H5N1 in healthy wild ducks at Poyang Lake have raised concerns about the potential of resilient free-ranging birds to disseminate the virus. Yet the role wild ducks play in connecting regions of HPAI H5N1 outbreak in Asia is hindered by a lack of information about their migratory ecology. During 2007–08 we marked wild ducks at Poyang Lake with satellite transmitters to examine the location and timing of spring migration and identify any spatiotemporal relationship with HPAI H5N1 outbreaks. Species included the Eurasian wigeon (Anas penelope), northern pintail (Anas acuta), common teal (Anas crecca), falcated teal (Anas falcata), Baikal teal (Anas formosa), mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), garganey (Anas querquedula), and Chinese spotbill (Anas poecilohyncha). These wild ducks (excluding the resident mallard and Chinese spotbill ducks) followed the East Asian Flyway along the coast to breeding areas in northern China, eastern Mongolia, and eastern Russia. None migrated west toward Qinghai Lake (site of the largest wild bird epizootic), thus failing to demonstrate any migratory connection to the Central Asian Flyway. A newly developed Brownian bridge spatial analysis indicated that HPAI H5N1 outbreaks reported in the flyway were related to latitude and poultry density but not to the core migration corridor or to wetland habitats. Also, we found a temporal mismatch between timing of outbreaks and wild duck movements. These analyses depend on complete or representative reporting of outbreaks, but by documenting movements of wild waterfowl, we present ecological knowledge that better informs epidemiological investigations seeking to explain and predict the spread of avian influenza viruses.
PMCID: PMC4878034  PMID: 20521681
Anatidae; waterfowl; Poyang Lake; Brownian bridge movement model; satellite telemetry; highly pathogenic avian influenza; H5N1; East Asian Flyway
4.  Mapping Avian Influenza Transmission Risk at the Interface of Domestic Poultry and Wild Birds 
Emergence of avian influenza viruses with high lethality to humans, such as the currently circulating highly pathogenic A(H5N1) (emerged in 1996) and A(H7N9) cause serious concern for the global economic and public health sectors. Understanding the spatial and temporal interface between wild and domestic populations, from which these viruses emerge, is fundamental to taking action. This information, however, is rarely considered in influenza risk models, partly due to a lack of data. We aim to identify areas of high transmission risk between domestic poultry and wild waterfowl in China, the epicenter of both viruses. Two levels of models were developed: one that predicts hotspots of novel virus emergence between domestic and wild birds, and one that incorporates H5N1 risk factors, for which input data exists. Models were produced at 1 and 30 km spatial resolution, and two temporal seasons. Patterns of risk varied between seasons with higher risk in the northeast, central-east, and western regions of China during spring and summer, and in the central and southeastern regions during winter. Monte-Carlo uncertainty analyses indicated varying levels of model confidence, with lowest errors in the densely populated regions of eastern and southern China. Applications and limitations of the models are discussed within.
PMCID: PMC3854848  PMID: 24350197
H5N1; avian influenza; spatial modeling; uncertainty; China; waterfowl; poultry; Monte-Carlo
5.  Risks of Avian Influenza Transmission in Areas of Intensive Free-ranging Duck Production with wild waterfowl 
EcoHealth  2014;11(1):109-119.
For decades, southern China has been considered to be an important source for emerging influenza viruses since key hosts live together in high densities in areas with intensive agriculture. However, the underlying conditions of emergence and spread of avian influenza viruses (AIV) have not been studied in detail, particularly the complex spatiotemporal interplay of viral transmission between wild and domestic ducks, two major actors of AIV epidemiology. In this synthesis, we examine the risks of avian influenza spread in Poyang Lake, an area of intensive free-ranging duck production and large numbers of wild waterfowl. Our synthesis shows that farming of free-grazing domestic ducks is intensive in this area and synchronized with wild duck migration. The presence of juvenile domestic ducks in harvested paddy fields prior to the arrival and departure of migrant ducks in the same fields may amplify the risk of AIV circulation and facilitate the transmission between wild and domestic populations. We provide evidence associating wild ducks migration with the spread of H5N1 in the spring of 2008 from southern China to South Korea, Russia, and Japan, supported by documented wild duck movements and phylogenetic analyses of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 sequences. We suggest that prevention measures based on a modification of agricultural practices may be implemented in these areas to reduce the intensity of AIV transmission between wild and domestic ducks. This would require involving all local stakeholders to discuss feasible and acceptable solutions.
PMCID: PMC4047217  PMID: 24652313
avian influenza virus; wild birds; migration; interface; contact; ecology; epidemiology; China; Poyang; telemetry; remote sensing; GPS
6.  Mapping migratory flyways in Asia using dynamic Brownian bridge movement models 
Movement Ecology  2015;3(1):3.
Identifying movement routes and stopover sites is necessary for developing effective management and conservation strategies for migratory animals. In the case of migratory birds, a collection of migration routes, known as a flyway, is often hundreds to thousands of kilometers long and can extend across political boundaries. Flyways encompass the entire geographic range between the breeding and non-breeding areas of a population, species, or a group of species, and they provide spatial frameworks for management and conservation across international borders. Existing flyway maps are largely qualitative accounts based on band returns and survey data rather than observed movement routes. In this study, we use satellite and GPS telemetry data and dynamic Brownian bridge movement models to build upon existing maps and describe waterfowl space use probabilistically in the Central Asian and East Asian-Australasian Flyways.
Our approach provided new information on migratory routes that was not easily attainable with existing methods to describe flyways. Utilization distributions from dynamic Brownian bridge movement models identified key staging and stopover sites, migration corridors and general flyway outlines in the Central Asian and East Asian-Australasian Flyways. A map of space use from ruddy shelducks depicted two separate movement corridors within the Central Asian Flyway, likely representing two distinct populations that show relatively strong connectivity between breeding and wintering areas. Bar-headed geese marked at seven locations in the Central Asian Flyway showed heaviest use at several stopover sites in the same general region of high-elevation lakes along the eastern Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Our analysis of data from multiple Anatidae species marked at sites throughout Asia highlighted major movement corridors across species and confirmed that the Central Asian and East Asian-Australasian Flyways were spatially distinct.
The dynamic Brownian bridge movement model improves our understanding of flyways by estimating relative use of regions in the flyway while providing detailed, quantitative information on migration timing and population connectivity including uncertainty between locations. This model effectively quantifies the relative importance of different migration corridors and stopover sites and may help prioritize specific areas in flyways for conservation of waterbird populations.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s40462-015-0029-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4337761  PMID: 25709838
Dynamic Brownian bridge movement model; Flyways; Waterfowl; Migration; Stopover sites; Space use; Habitat conservation
7.  Movements of Wild Ruddy Shelducks in the Central Asian Flyway and Their Spatial Relationship to Outbreaks of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1 
Viruses  2013;5(9):2129-2152.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 remains a serious concern for both poultry and human health. Wild waterfowl are considered to be the reservoir for low pathogenic avian influenza viruses; however, relatively little is known about their movement ecology in regions where HPAI H5N1 outbreaks regularly occur. We studied movements of the ruddy shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea), a wild migratory waterfowl species that was infected in the 2005 Qinghai Lake outbreak. We defined their migration with Brownian Bridge utilization distribution models and their breeding and wintering grounds with fixed kernel home ranges. We correlated their movements with HPAI H5N1 outbreaks, poultry density, land cover, and latitude in the Central Asian Flyway. Our Akaike Information Criterion analysis indicated that outbreaks were correlated with land cover, latitude, and poultry density. Although shelduck movements were included in the top two models, they were not a top parameter selected in AICc stepwise regression results. However, timing of outbreaks suggested that outbreaks in the flyway began during the winter in poultry with spillover to wild birds during the spring migration. Thus, studies of the movement ecology of wild birds in areas with persistent HPAI H5N1 outbreaks may contribute to understanding their role in transmission of this disease.
PMCID: PMC3798894  PMID: 24022072
Brahminy duck; movement ecology; Tadorna ferruginea; avian influenza
8.  Modelling the distribution of chickens, ducks, and geese in China 
Agriculture, ecosystems & environment  2011;141(3-4):381-389.
Global concerns over the emergence of zoonotic pandemics emphasize the need for high-resolution population distribution mapping and spatial modelling. Ongoing efforts to model disease risk in China have been hindered by a lack of available species level distribution maps for poultry. The goal of this study was to develop 1 km resolution population density models for China’s chickens, ducks, and geese. We used an information theoretic approach to predict poultry densities based on statistical relationships between poultry census data and high-resolution agro-ecological predictor variables. Model predictions were validated by comparing goodness of fit measures (root mean square error and correlation coefficient) for observed and predicted values for ¼ of the sample data which was not used for model training. Final output included mean and coefficient of variation maps for each species. We tested the quality of models produced using three predictor datasets and 4 regional stratification methods. For predictor variables, a combination of traditional predictors for livestock mapping and land use predictors produced the best goodness of fit scores. Comparison of regional stratifications indicated that for chickens and ducks, a stratification based on livestock production systems produced the best results; for geese, an agro-ecological stratification produced best results. However, for all species, each method of regional stratification produced significantly better goodness of fit scores than the global model. Here we provide descriptive methods, analytical comparisons, and model output for China’s first high resolution, species level poultry distribution maps. Output will be made available to the scientific and public community for use in a wide range of applications from epidemiological studies to livestock policy and management initiatives.
PMCID: PMC3134362  PMID: 21765567
poultry; China; distribution modelling; population estimates; GIS; epidemiology
9.  Eco-Virological Approach for Assessing the Role of Wild Birds in the Spread of Avian Influenza H5N1 along the Central Asian Flyway 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e30636.
A unique pattern of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 outbreaks has emerged along the Central Asia Flyway, where infection of wild birds has been reported with steady frequency since 2005. We assessed the potential for two hosts of HPAI H5N1, the bar-headed goose (Anser indicus) and ruddy shelduck (Tadorna tadorna), to act as agents for virus dispersal along this ‘thoroughfare’. We used an eco-virological approach to compare the migration of 141 birds marked with GPS satellite transmitters during 2005–2010 with: 1) the spatio-temporal patterns of poultry and wild bird outbreaks of HPAI H5N1, and 2) the trajectory of the virus in the outbreak region based on phylogeographic mapping. We found that biweekly utilization distributions (UDs) for 19.2% of bar-headed geese and 46.2% of ruddy shelduck were significantly associated with outbreaks. Ruddy shelduck showed highest correlation with poultry outbreaks owing to their wintering distribution in South Asia, where there is considerable opportunity for HPAI H5N1 spillover from poultry. Both species showed correlation with wild bird outbreaks during the spring migration, suggesting they may be involved in the northward movement of the virus. However, phylogeographic mapping of HPAI H5N1 clades 2.2 and 2.3 did not support dissemination of the virus in a northern direction along the migration corridor. In particular, two subclades (2.2.1 and 2.3.2) moved in a strictly southern direction in contrast to our spatio-temporal analysis of bird migration. Our attempt to reconcile the disciplines of wild bird ecology and HPAI H5N1 virology highlights prospects offered by both approaches as well as their limitations.
PMCID: PMC3274535  PMID: 22347393
10.  Wild Bird Migration across the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau: A Transmission Route for Highly Pathogenic H5N1 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(3):e17622.
Qinghai Lake in central China has been at the center of debate on whether wild birds play a role in circulation of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus H5N1. In 2005, an unprecedented epizootic at Qinghai Lake killed more than 6000 migratory birds including over 3000 bar-headed geese (Anser indicus). H5N1 subsequently spread to Europe and Africa, and in following years has re-emerged in wild birds along the Central Asia flyway several times.
Methodology/Principal Findings
To better understand the potential involvement of wild birds in the spread of H5N1, we studied the movements of bar-headed geese marked with GPS satellite transmitters at Qinghai Lake in relation to virus outbreaks and disease risk factors. We discovered a previously undocumented migratory pathway between Qinghai Lake and the Lhasa Valley of Tibet where 93% of the 29 marked geese overwintered. From 2003–2009, sixteen outbreaks in poultry or wild birds were confirmed on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, and the majority were located within the migratory pathway of the geese. Spatial and temporal concordance between goose movements and three potential H5N1 virus sources (poultry farms, a captive bar-headed goose facility, and H5N1 outbreak locations) indicated ample opportunities existed for virus spillover and infection of migratory geese on the wintering grounds. Their potential as a vector of H5N1 was supported by rapid migration movements of some geese and genetic relatedness of H5N1 virus isolated from geese in Tibet and Qinghai Lake.
This is the first study to compare phylogenetics of the virus with spatial ecology of its host, and the combined results suggest that wild birds play a role in the spread of H5N1 in this region. However, the strength of the evidence would be improved with additional sequences from both poultry and wild birds on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau where H5N1 has a clear stronghold.
PMCID: PMC3052365  PMID: 21408010
11.  Spatial Distribution and Risk Factors of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1 in China 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(3):e1001308.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 was first encountered in 1996 in Guangdong province (China) and started spreading throughout Asia and the western Palearctic in 2004–2006. Compared to several other countries where the HPAI H5N1 distribution has been studied in some detail, little is known about the environmental correlates of the HPAI H5N1 distribution in China. HPAI H5N1 clinical disease outbreaks, and HPAI virus (HPAIV) H5N1 isolated from active risk-based surveillance sampling of domestic poultry (referred to as HPAIV H5N1 surveillance positives in this manuscript) were modeled separately using seven risk variables: chicken, domestic waterfowl population density, proportion of land covered by rice or surface water, cropping intensity, elevation, and human population density. We used bootstrapped logistic regression and boosted regression trees (BRT) with cross-validation to identify the weight of each variable, to assess the predictive power of the models, and to map the distribution of HPAI H5N1 risk. HPAI H5N1 clinical disease outbreak occurrence in domestic poultry was mainly associated with chicken density, human population density, and elevation. In contrast, HPAIV H5N1 infection identified by risk-based surveillance was associated with domestic waterfowl density, human population density, and the proportion of land covered by surface water. Both models had a high explanatory power (mean AUC ranging from 0.864 to 0.967). The map of HPAIV H5N1 risk distribution based on active surveillance data emphasized areas south of the Yangtze River, while the distribution of reported outbreak risk extended further North, where the density of poultry and humans is higher. We quantified the statistical association between HPAI H5N1 outbreak, HPAIV distribution and post-vaccination levels of seropositivity (percentage of effective post-vaccination seroconversion in vaccinated birds) and found that provinces with either outbreaks or HPAIV H5N1 surveillance positives in 2007–2009 appeared to have had lower antibody response to vaccination. The distribution of HPAI H5N1 risk in China appears more limited geographically than previously assessed, offering prospects for better targeted surveillance and control interventions.
Author Summary
The geographical distribution of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 and agro-ecological risk factors have been studied in a number of countries in Southeast Asia. However, little is know of its distribution in China where HPAI H5N1 first emerged in 1996, evolved, and spread throughout Asia and the western Palearctic in 2004–2006. This study analyzes separately the distribution, in domestic poultry, of HPAI virus (HPAIV) H5N1 isolated from active risk-based surveillance sampling and HPAI H5N1 clinical disease outbreaks. These data are analyzed in relation to the distribution of chicken and domestic waterfowl population density, proportion of land covered by rice or surface water, cropping intensity, elevation, and human population density. HPAI H5N1 viruses identified by risk-based surveillance are found to be associated with domestic waterfowl density, human population density, and the proportion of land covered by surface water. In contrast, HPAI H5N1 clinical disease outbreak occurrences were mainly associated with chicken density, human population density, and low elevation. These results show that the distribution of HPAI H5N1 risk in China appears more limited geographically than previously assessed, offering prospects for better targeted surveillance and control interventions.
PMCID: PMC3048366  PMID: 21408202
12.  Flying Over an Infected Landscape: Distribution of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1 Risk in South Asia and Satellite Tracking of Wild Waterfowl 
Ecohealth  2011;7(4):448-458.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 virus persists in Asia, posing a threat to poultry, wild birds, and humans. Previous work in Southeast Asia demonstrated that HPAI H5N1 risk is related to domestic ducks and people. Other studies discussed the role of migratory birds in the long distance spread of HPAI H5N1. However, the interplay between local persistence and long-distance dispersal has never been studied. We expand previous geospatial risk analysis to include South and Southeast Asia, and integrate the analysis with migration data of satellite-tracked wild waterfowl along the Central Asia flyway. We find that the population of domestic duck is the main factor delineating areas at risk of HPAI H5N1 spread in domestic poultry in South Asia, and that other risk factors, such as human population and chicken density, are associated with HPAI H5N1 risk within those areas. We also find that satellite tracked birds (Ruddy Shelduck and two Bar-headed Geese) reveal a direct spatio-temporal link between the HPAI H5N1 hot-spots identified in India and Bangladesh through our risk model, and the wild bird outbreaks in May–June–July 2009 in China (Qinghai Lake), Mongolia, and Russia. This suggests that the continental-scale dynamics of HPAI H5N1 are structured as a number of persistence areas delineated by domestic ducks, connected by rare transmission through migratory waterfowl.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10393-010-0672-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3166606  PMID: 21267626
avian influenza; epidemiology; disease ecology; migration
13.  Migration of Whooper Swans and Outbreaks of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1 Virus in Eastern Asia 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(5):e5729.
Evaluating the potential involvement of wild avifauna in the emergence of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 (hereafter H5N1) requires detailed analyses of temporal and spatial relationships between wild bird movements and disease emergence. The death of wild swans (Cygnus spp.) has been the first indicator of the presence of H5N1 in various Asian and European countries; however their role in the geographic spread of the disease remains poorly understood. We marked 10 whooper swans (Cygnus cygnus) with GPS transmitters in northeastern Mongolia during autumn 2006 and tracked their migratory movements in relation to H5N1 outbreaks. The prevalence of H5N1 outbreaks among poultry in eastern Asia during 2003–2007 peaked during winter, concurrent with whooper swan movements into regions of high poultry density. However outbreaks involving poultry were detected year round, indicating disease perpetuation independent of migratory waterbird presence. In contrast, H5N1 outbreaks involving whooper swans, as well as other migratory waterbirds that succumbed to the disease in eastern Asia, tended to occur during seasons (late spring and summer) and in habitats (areas of natural vegetation) where their potential for contact with poultry is very low to nonexistent. Given what is known about the susceptibility of swans to H5N1, and on the basis of the chronology and rates of whooper swan migration movements, we conclude that although there is broad spatial overlap between whooper swan distributions and H5N1 outbreak locations in eastern Asia, the likelihood of direct transmission between these groups is extremely low. Thus, our data support the hypothesis that swans are best viewed as sentinel species, and moreover, that in eastern Asia, it is most likely that their infections occurred through contact with asymptomatic migratory hosts (e.g., wild ducks) at or near their breeding grounds.
PMCID: PMC2684635  PMID: 19479053

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