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Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative

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Pesticide lab.
K. Jones (USGS) extracting a water sample for pesticide analysis at Pesticide Fate Research Laboratory. Photo by: R. Todd.

The collaborative design which joins wildlife biologists and hydrologists enables ARMI to ask the kinds of questions it does about the environmental variables that affect amphibians in a truly integrated manner. Understanding how water quality, quantity, or timing affects amphibians is a critical component of ARMI research.

A hydrologist is associated with each ARMI region and works with the ARMI PI to develop and implement research and monitoring projects. These collaborations enable ARMI to ask questions about how water quality (e.g., nutrients, agro-chemicals, acidification), water budgets (e.g., ground and surface water models), storm surge impacts, or other hydrologic conditions can affect amphibian life cycles, disease transport, or habitat quality.


Hydrologic Investigations
USGS Toxics Substances Hydrology program

ARMI Products on Water

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This is an ARMI Product. Host pathogen metapopulation dynamics suggest high elevation refugia for boreal toads
Authors: Mosher BA, Bailey LL, Muths E, Huyvaert KP | Date: 2018 | Outlet: Ecological Applications | Format: .PDF
Emerging infectious diseases are an increasingly common threat to wildlife. Chytridiomycosis, caused by the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), is an emerging infectious disease that has been linked to amphibian declines around the world. Few studies exist that explore amphibian-Bd dynamics at the landscape scale, limiting our ability to identify which factors are associated with variation in population susceptibility and to develop effective in situ disease management. Declines of boreal toads (Anaxyrus boreas boreas) in the Southern Rocky Mountains are largely attributed to chytridiomycosis but variation exists in local extinction of boreal toads across this metapopulation. Using a large-scale historic dataset, we explored several potential factors influencing disease dynamics in the boreal toad-Bd system: geographic isolation of populations, amphibian community richness, elevational differences, and habitat permanence. We found evidence that boreal toad extinction risk was lowest at high elevations where temperatures may be sub-optimal for Bd growth and where small boreal toad populations may be below the threshold needed for efficient pathogen transmission. In addition, boreal toads were more likely to recolonize high elevation sites after local extinction, again suggesting that high elevations may provide refuge from disease for boreal toads. We illustrate a modeling framework that will be useful to natural resource managers striving to make decisions in amphibian-Bd systems.

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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