Predicting facial eczema risks in a changing New Zealand climate
Facial eczema is a major concern for New Zealand farmers due to its economic impact and animal welfare implications. The disease occurs when animals ingest sporidesmin, a mycotoxin produced by spores of the fungus Pseudopithomyces chartarum. Spore production is related to weather conditions; thus the incidence and severity of facial eczema varies between years, with the
disease commonly occurring from late summer through autumn in the North Island. We developed a simple model to estimate climatic suitability for P. chartarum sporulation and ran it using climate data for 2008-2021 to compare its estimates with spore counts from the same years. Model climatic suitability estimates had significant linear correlations with an index of exposure to spores derived from spore counts at both national and local scales. Model results were also consistent with a documented outbreak of facial eczema. Using predicted future climate data from the Hadley Centre Global Environment Model version 2 and two emissions
scenarios, the model suggested climatic suitability for P. chartarum sporulation will increase with time in many New Zealand regions, particularly in the southern North Island and eastern parts of the South Island. However, it could remain relatively static in some other areas, thus the degree of change in climatic suitability for P. chartarum sporulation is predicted to vary between New Zealand regions.
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