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The amphibian-killing fungus in a biodiversity hotspot: Identifying and validating high-risk areas and refugia

Bacigalupe, LD; Vásquez, IA; Estay, SA; Valenzuela-Sánchez, A; Alvarado-Rybak, M; Peñafiel-Ricaurte, A; Cunningham, A; (2019) The amphibian-killing fungus in a biodiversity hotspot: Identifying and validating high-risk areas and refugia. Ecosphere , 10 (5) , Article e02724. 10.1002/ecs2.2724. Green open access

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Abstract

Amphibian chytridiomycosis, due to infection with the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), has been associated with the alarming decline and extinction crisis of amphibians worldwide. It is essential for conservation management to identify regions with high or low suitability for Bd. We use a species distribution model to estimate the environmental suitability of Bd in the Chilean Winter Rainfall - Valdivian Forest biodiversity hotspot. Fourteen environmental variables were used as predictors in the statistical modelling (Maxent, generalized linear models, random forest) which also included 56 independent Bd+ localities. High risk-areas (i.e., suitability above a defined threshold) were validated through prospective field surveys conducted in 2017. As results from Maxent, which only uses presence data, were the only results retained, refugia (i.e., suitability below a defined threshold) were validated with the Bd absences (N = 12) used in the GLM and RF modelling. Our results showed that: (i) suitability for Bd increased with human footprint and with shorter distances to urban centres and water bodies and decreased with elevation; (ii) climate was not a major factor shaping the current distribution of Bd; and (iii) the model predicted high-risk and refugia areas fairly well. Surveys of 24 new localities in high-risk areas confirmed that 23 were Bd+, hence these areas warrant consideration for long-term Bd surveillance, population monitoring and disease mitigation. In addition, five localities with apparent Bd absence were found in the predicted high-risk areas. Our models showed that refugia can exist near high risk areas and Bd+ sites. Four localities with apparent Bd absence were located within the refugia predicted by the model. Preventing Bd transmission to such refugia is of paramount importance for persistence of Bd susceptible amphibian populations. The identification and validation through prospective field surveys of high-risk areas and refugia is imperative to develop strategies to prevent further arrival and establishment of Bd. Also, by identifying amphibian species or populations of conservation concern in such areas, will help to guide specific actions to reduce the biodiversity loss caused by chytridiomycosis.

Type: Article
Title: The amphibian-killing fungus in a biodiversity hotspot: Identifying and validating high-risk areas and refugia
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.2724
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1002/ecs2.2724
Language: English
Additional information: © 2019 The Authors. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, chile, chytrid fungus, chytridiomycosis, emerging infectious diseases, maxent, pathogen mitigation strategy, species distribution model
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences > Genetics, Evolution and Environment
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10071542
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