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Stressors


Gary Fellers, air quality.
G. Fellers (ARMI) changing a filter in an air sampler that is used to measure agricultural chemicals that drift into Yosemite NP, California. Photo by: J. Fellers.

Declines in amphibian populations have occurred not only on areas clearly impacted by human activities such as urbanization, but also on protected lands intended to buffer amphibians and other wildlife from anthropogenic disturbances. Some stressors are not stopped by preserve boundaries and can affect wildlife populations 10's or 100's of kilometers from their source or point of use. For example, pesticides, fertilizers, or supplements given to livestock can be transported from the terrestrial setting where they are applied, to aquatic environments via precipitation, run-off, erosion, wind, and misuse. Conversely, some contaminants such as mercury or selenium occur naturally, but can be concentrated, or disturbed and released into the environment by human activities. Amphibian populations can be exposed to multiple stressors simultaneously, producing novel conditions with unknown outcomes.

ARMI scientists conduct research to identify stressors and evaluate their impacts on amphibian individuals and populations.

ARMI Products on Stressors

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BA Mosher  
This is an ARMI Product. Design- and model-based recommendations for detecting and quantifying an amphibian pathogen in environmental samples
Authors: Mosher BA, Huyvaert KP, Chestnut T, Kerby JL, Madison JD, Bailey LL | Date: 2017-12 | Outlet: Ecology and Evolution | Format: .PDF
Accurate pathogen detection is essential for developing management strategies to address emerging infectious diseases, an increasingly prominent threat to wildlife. Sampling for free-living pathogens outside of their hosts has benefits for inference and study efficiency, but is still uncommon. We used a laboratory experiment to evaluate the influences of pathogen concentration, water type, and qPCR inhibitors on the detection and quantification of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) using water filtration. We compared results pre- and post-inhibitor removal, and assessed inferential differences when single versus multiple samples were collected across space or time. We found that qPCR inhibition influenced both Bd detection and quantification in natural water samples, resulting in biased inferences about Bd occurrence and abundance. Biases in occurrence could be mitigated by collecting multiple samples in space or time, but biases in Bd quantification were persistent. Differences in Bd concentration resulted in variation in detection probability, indicating that occupancy modeling could be used to explore factors influencing heterogeneity in Bd abundance among samples, sites, or over time. Our work will influence the design of studies involving amphibian disease dynamics and studies utilizing environmental DNA (eDNA) to understand species distributions.

This is an ARMI Product. A pesticide paradox: Fungicides indirectly increase fungal infections
Authors: Rohr JR, Brown J, Battaglin WA, McMahon TA, Relyea RA | Date: 2017-07-28 | Outlet: Ecological Applications, in press DOI: 10.1002/eap.1607
Abstract. There are many examples where the use of chemicals have had profound unanticipated consequences, such as fertilizers reducing crop yields (paradox of enrichment) and insecticides increasing insect pests (by reducing natural biocontrol). Recently, the application of agrochemicals, such as agricultural disinfectants and fungicides, has been explored as an approach to curb the pathogenic fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), which is associated with worldwide amphibian declines. However, the long-term, net effects of early-life exposure to these chemicals on amphibian disease risk have not been thoroughly investigated. Using a combination of laboratory experiments and analysis of data from the literature, we explored the effects of fungicide exposure on Bd infections in two frog species. Extremely low concentrations of the fungicides azoxystrobin, chlorothalonil, and mancozeb were directly toxic to Bd in culture. However, estimated environmental concentrations of the fungicides did not reduce Bd on Cuban tree frog (Osteopilus septentrionalis) tadpoles exposed simultaneously to any of these fungicides and Bd, and fungicide exposure actually increased Bd-induced mortality. Additionally, exposure to any of these fungicides as tadpoles resulted in higher Bd abundance and greater Bd-induced mortality when challenged with Bd post-metamorphosis, an average of 71 days after their last fungicide exposure. Analysis of data from the literature revealed that previous exposure to the fungicide itraconazole, which is commonly used to clear Bd infections, made the critically endangered booroolong frog (Litoria booroolongensis) more susceptible to Bd. Finally, a field survey revealed that Bd prevalence was positively associated with concentrations of fungicides in ponds. Although fungicides show promise for controlling Bd, these results suggest that, if fungicides do not completely eradicate Bd or if Bd re-colonizes, exposure to fungicides has the potential to do more harm than good. To ensure that fungicide applications have the intended consequence of curbing amphibian declines, researchers must identify which fungicides do not compromise the pathogen resistance mechanisms of amphibians.

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Brown C  
This is an ARMI Product. Identifying Species Conservation Strategies to Reduce Disease-Associated Declines
Authors: Gerber B, Converse S, Muths E, Crokett H, Mosher B, Larissa B | Date: 2017 | Outlet: Conservation Letters | Format: .PDF
Emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) are a salient threat to many animal taxa, causing local and global extinctions, altering communities and ecosystem function. The EID chytridiomycosis is a prominent driver of amphibian declines, which is caused by the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). To guide conservation policy, we developed a predictive decision-analytic model that combines empirical knowledge of host-pathogen metapopulation dynamics with expert judgment regarding effects of management actions, to select from potential conservation strategies. We apply our approach to a boreal toad (Anaxyrus boreas boreas) and Bd system, identifying optimal strategies that balance tradeoffs in maximizing toad population persistence and landscape-level distribution, while considering costs. The most robust strategy is expected to reduce the decline of toad breeding sites from 53% to 21% over 50 years. Our findings are incorporated into management policy to guide conservation planning. Our online modeling application provides a template for managers of other systems challenged by EIDs.


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