Conservation Medicine: Ecological Health in Practice

By A. Alonso Aguirre; Richard S. Ostfeld et al. | Go to book overview

19
Ecological Health and Wildlife
Disease Management in
National Parks
Colin M. Gillin
Gary M. Tabor
A. Alonso Aguirre

Once considered to be shining examples of pristine nature, national parks and other conservation protected areas are facing increasing threats to their ecological integrity. Habitat fragmentation and degradation, habitat loss, species extinctions, alien species introductions, pollution, and recreational overusage represent some of the cumulative effects that are putting these areas of natural heritage under increasing stress. Long considered a footnote to protected area management, health concerns are gaining greater attention in protected areas as cumulative stresses are enhancing, and sometimes amplifying, conditions for disease and other health effects. In this chapter we discuss the influence of pollution and disease and other health effects on the integrity of parks and protected areas.

Protected areas are relatively undisturbed natural ecosystems set aside from human development and provided of legislative protection with the National Park Service Organic Act of 1916 (MacKintosh 1991). Despite protection from human influence to habitat and animal population numbers, the health of wildlife is intertwined with the influences of the encompassing ecosystem, both inside and outside park boundaries. Those influences will continue to increase as park visitor numbers increase, leading to behavioral stress on wildlife. Other environmental stressors including pollution from automobiles, snowmobiles, and upwind airborne contaminants lead to changes in the environment and degradation of the stability of these ecosystems.

The health and environmental stability of areas protected and conserved for natural resources can be measured by evaluating the pathologic changes threatening wildlife, humans, and plants within an ecosystem. In 1941, Aldo Leopold wrote, “A science of land health needs, first of all, a base-datum of normality, a

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