Climate-driven tipping-points could lead to sudden, high-intensity parasite outbreaks

NJ Fox*, G Marion, RS Davidson, PCL White, MR Hutchings

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)
19 Downloads (Pure)


Parasitic nematodes represent one of the most pervasive and significant challenges to grazing livestock, and their intensity and distribution are strongly influenced by climate. Parasite levels and species composition have already shifted under climate change, with nematode parasite intensity frequently low in newly colonized areas, but sudden largescale outbreaks are becoming increasingly common. These outbreaks compromise both food security and animal welfare, yet there is a paucity of predictions on how climate change will influence livestock parasites. This study aims to assess how climate change can affect parasite risk. Using a processbased approach, we determine how changes in temperaturesensitive elements of outbreaks influence parasite dynamics, to explore the potential for climate change to influence livestock helminth infections. We show that changes in temperatesensitive parameters can result in nonlinear responses in outbreak dynamics, leading to distinct ‘tipping-points’ in nematode parasite burdens. Through applying two mechanistic models, of varying complexity, our approach demonstrates that these nonlinear responses are robust to the inclusion of a number of realistic processes that are present in livestock systems. Our study demonstrates that small changes in climatic conditions around critical thresholds may result in dramatic changes in parasite burdens.
Original languageEnglish
Article number140296
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number5
Early online date1 May 2015
Publication statusFirst published - 1 May 2015

Bibliographical note



  • Climate change
  • Helminth
  • Livestock
  • Nematode
  • Parasite
  • Temperature


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