Decision making for mitigating emerging wildlife diseases: from theory to practice

Authors: Stefano Canessa; Claudio Bozzuto; Evan HC Grant; Sam S Cruickshank; Matthew C Fisher; Jacob C Koella; Stefan Lotters; An Martel; Frank Pasmans; Ben C Scheele; Annemarieke Spitzen-van der Sluijs; Sebastian Steinfartz; Benedikt R Schmidt
Contribution Number: 584

1. Conservation science can be most effective in its decision-support role when seeking answers to clearly formulated questions of direct management relevance. Emerging wildlife diseases, a driver of global biodiversity loss, illustrate the challenges of performing this role: in spite of considerable research, successful mitigation remains uncommon. Decision analysis is increasingly advocated to guide mitigation planning, but its application remains uncommon.
2. Using an integral projection model, we explored potential mitigation actions for avoiding population declines and the ongoing spatial spread of the fungus Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal). This fungus has recently caused severe amphibian declines in north-western Europe and threatens Palearctic salamander diversity.
3. Available evidence suggests that a Bsal outbreak in a fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra) population will lead to its rapid extirpation. Treatments such as antifungals or probiotics would need to almost entirely interrupt transmission (reduce probability of infection by more than 90%) to avert host extirpation and successfully eradicate the pathogen.
4. Improving the survival of infected hosts is most likely to be detrimental as it increases the potential for pathogen transmission and dispersal. Active removal of host species has some potential to reduce the spread of Bsal, but its effectiveness depends on the presence of Bsal reservoirs and on the host?s spatial dynamics, which should therefore represent research priorities.
5. Synthesis and applications. Mitigation of Bsal epidemics in susceptible host species is highly unlikely, requiring highly efficient interruption of transmission and substantial removal of host individuals. More in general, our study illustrates the advantages of framing conservation science directly in the management decision context, rather than adapting to it a posteriori.

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Media Format: .PDF

ARMI Organizational Units:
Northeast - Biology
Disease; Management
chytrid fungus; disease; extinction; management; pathogen; persistence
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