Historical Analysis of Avian Botulism Outbreaks Throughout the Main Hawaiian Islands and Relationship to Wetland Management


Avian botulism is a paralytic disease that globally kills thousands of waterbirds annually (Rocke and Samuel, 1999). Magnitudes of birds are lost due to botulism every year, with cases expanding nationwide since the 1980s to now being common throughout North America (Friend et al. 2001). Due to the complexity of environmental relationships, targeting and eliminating ecological factors contributing to avian botulism remains a challenge (Anniballi et al. 2013; Rocke and Samuel, 1999). Studies of avian botulism are largely limited to continental contexts, with little research on avian botulism outbreak in isolated island contexts (Work et al. 2010). Island ecosystems are characterized by small and isolated waterbird populations (Work et al. 2010), therefore the threat of large avian botulism outbreaks is much larger with the potential to decimate endangered populations. Current efforts to contain outbreaks of avian botulism involve land managers quickly removing dead birds to limit the spread of the disease (Friend and Franson, 1999). A better understanding of historical trends in avian botulism outbreak throughout the islands could help managers not only limit the spread but manage wetlands to reduce the chance of large outbreaks in the first place. This project aims to minimize botulism-caused mortality in waterbirds by increasing prevention and containment through review of historical avian botulism trends throughout the state. It will: (1) establish a waterbird botulism database to enable identification of historical and future trends in botulism outbreaks across the Hawaiian Islands; (2) evaluate historical trends in waterbird mortality due to botulism and relation to wetland management style; (3) create the Hawai‘i Waterbird Botulism Reporting Network, including a website to provide information and receive reports, and a listserv of partners to alert in case of suspected outbreaks.