Amphibian Chytrid: A test for Conservation?

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Presented by : Guillaume Demare
Oxford UniversityAuthors
Guillaume Demare

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Introduction: What conservation problem or question does your study address?
The emergence and worldwide spread of chytridiomycosis is a great challenge for the conservation of amphibian species. The disease has caused large-scale decline in populations of frogs and salamanders, sometimes to the point of extinction. This global crisis, however, has been accompanied by the growing mobilization of knowledge, resources and action. Can conservation management provide effective solutions to this critical conservation issue?

Methods: What were the main research methods you used?
I reviewed current knowledge about the ecology and physiology of amphibian chytrid fungus, the pathogen responsible for chytridiomycosis, as well as knowledge about host-pathogen dynamics. This information was then integrated within a risk management framework that was previously applied to the threat imposed by climate change on species. Vulnerability to a given threat is dictated by adaptive capacity, sensitivity and exposure to that threat (Dawson et al., 2011). Based on this method, I was able to identify the most appropriate management possibilities for mitigating the spread of amphibian chytrid. At least one case study demonstrates how this framework can be applied. This example also shows that effective action is dependent on, or at least facilitated by, a good working science-policy interface in conservation management.

Results: What are your most important results?
Chytrid appears to escape amphibian immune defenses, so the prospect for adaptive capability is poor. However, recent work suggests that it is possible to predict sensitivity of species to infection, and knowledge about the environmental niche of chytrid has allowed researchers to find areas that are most at risk from exposure. It is therefore possible to identify species that are more vulnerable, set conservation priorities and allocate management accordingly.

Discussion: What are your important discussion points and what is the relevance of your results to conservation (if any)?
The science behind chytridiomycosis and amphibian declines has improved considerably over the last decade. Integrating this knowledge within a policy framework enables managers to move beyond predictions and find pragmatic solutions to a global biodiversity crisis. This approach has already been applied to certain areas of the world and has brought protection to many species. The science-policy interface is crucial in limiting the spread of the disease.

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