Emerging fungal diseases have devastating effects on population abundance and species diversity in amphibians, bats, coral reefs, plants and snakes. The origins of these diseases and their effects on physiology, demography, species loss, rates of colonization, and community assembly are important for mitigating their impacts on wildlife. Effective conservation measures are desperately needed but still sorely lacking. Solutions are rarely one-size-fits-all, and what works for one species may not work for another. The large host range of the amphibian fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), and the presence of persistent environmental reservoirs are two features that have prevented development of effective conservation measures. Further, developing conservation measures to address Bd will be difficult when response to infection varies among species and populations, and depends on the composition of the amphibian community, host species traits, pathogen genotype, habitats, and climate conditions. Conservation is also hampered by a lack of data on the short-and long-term effects of Bd. Bd has been found on all continents (except Antarctica), but its history, and its effects on native amphibian populations are poorly known for most areas and for most species. In only a handful of cases do we have clear evidence that a community was recently invaded by an invasive lineage of chytrid, resulting in precipitous declines and die-offs. In most regions, Bd is broadly distributed both geographically and taxonomically, often with little or no evidence of past epizootics, population declines, or pathogen invasion. Retrospective surveys of museum holdings have shown that the history of Bd at some sites has been many decades longer than expected, raising questions regarding both the ability of scientists to detect the “Ghost of Chytrid Past” and the ability of amphibians to adapt to disease. Similarities in the biology of emerging fungal pathogens of wildlife will require international collaboration, multidisciplinary research, and a portfolio of conservation measures to protect global biodiversity.
Emerging Infectious Diseases and Impacts on Biodiversity