A nose for trouble: ecotoxicological implications for climate change and disease in Saiga antelope (S. t. tatarica)

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In recent decades, Saiga antelope (Saiga t. tatarica) mass die-offs have become more common. The mass die-off of 2015 in central Kazakhstan, recorded 140,000 individual deaths across multiple herds. Previously, research has shown atmospheric humidity, the bacterium Pasteurella multocida serotype B, and resultant haemorrhagic septicaemia, were the primary cause. However, other synergistic factors may have impacted this process. Here we use a multivariate compositional data analysis (CoDA) approach to assess what other factors may have been involved. We show a pollutant linkage mechanism where relative humidity and dewpoint temperature combine with environmental pollutants, potentially toxic elements (e.g., Hg, As), complex carbon compounds (e.g., Acetone, Toluene), and inorganic compounds (e.g., CHx, SO2) which affected the Saiga during the calving season (start and peak) and at the onset of the mass die-off. We suggest a mechanism for this process. Upon arrival at their carving grounds, the Saiga experienced a sudden precipitation event, a spike in temperatures, and resultant high humidity occurs. The infectious bacterium P. multocida serotype B then spreads. Further, environmental pollutants contained within steppe soils are released to the air, forming localised smog events, these synergistically combine, and mass die-off occurs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number93
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental Geochemistry and Health
Issue number3
Early online date17 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024


  • Animals
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Compositional data analysis (CoDA)
  • Antelopes - microbiology
  • Kazakhstan
  • Climate Change
  • Environmental pollution
  • Epidemiological
  • Saiga mass die-off
  • Smog


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