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Individual Highlight

Response to Emerging Infectious Amphibian Diseases Forges New Alliances Between Science, Management, and Policy

Photo of Rough skinned newt, Taricha granulosa is commonly seen in Pacific Northwest forests, and in laboratory experiments has been shown to be vulnerable to the salamander chytrid fungus. Elke Wind, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.Rough skinned newt, Taricha granulosa is commonly seen in Pacific Northwest forests, and in laboratory experiments has been shown to be vulnerable to the salamander chytrid fungus. Elke Wind, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.Snapshot : The newly described salamander chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) is rapidly spreading in Europe, killing salamanders as its distribution expands. In 2014, laboratory challenge experiments found that numerous North American salamanders were vulnerable to the disease caused by this fungal pathogen, but it is not yet known to occur here. A North American response to forestall this threat to native species is growing, increasing awareness of other herpetofaunal diseases, resulting in policy, science, management, and conservation actions.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Olson, Deanna ("Dede") H.  
Research Location : National, North America
Research Station : Pacific Northwest Research Station (PNW)
Year : 2016
Highlight ID : 977

Summary

The newly described salamander chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) is rapidly spreading in Europe, killing salamanders as its distribution expands. A Disease Task Team and a Bsal Task Force were created in 2015 to address the growing concern of emerging infectious diseases in amphibians and reptiles in North America. The Bsal Task Force includes executives within government agency to concerned citizens. It has seven working groups (research, surveillance, decision support, diagnostics, data management, response, communication and outreach), a Technical Advisory Committee (with participants from the trade industry, government agencies, universities, and non-governmental organizations), and an Executive Oversight component. Currently, participation is largely from the United States, but international participation has been encouraged, especially in research and communication. A parallel organization was organized in Canada in 2016. A scientist at the Pacific Northwest Research Station co-leads the task force. Heightened surveillance is ongoing. Bsal has not been formally reported from the United States at this time. Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation assembled a Disease Task Team to aid the Bsal effort and expand the scope of activities to other herpetofaunal diseases. They have been assembling a state and provincial “Who Ya Gonna Call?” list in the event of a disease incident, along with disinfection protocols. Research on the sister species of chytrid fungus, B. dendrobatidis (Bd), has gained considerable momentum over the last decade, filling numerous information gaps about amphibian host-pathogen systems.

The science products from years of Bd research as well as the recent products of the Bsal Task Force and Disease Task Team have been used to inform policy. The U.S. response to Bsal has been elevated with new policy: an interim rule of the Lacey Act is in effect prohibiting imports or interstate transportation of more than 200 salamander species without permits. Both disease groups have contributed information to the public review of this interim review.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

 
  • AmphibiaWeb
  • Atlanta Botanical Garden
  • International Union for Conservation of Nature, Amphibian Survival Alliance
  • Oregon State University
  • Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation
  • Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • U.S. Geological Survey

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