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Preserving pathogens for wildlife conservation: a case for action on amphibian declines

Jamie Voylesa1 c1, Scott D. Cashinsa2, Erica Bree Rosenbluma3 and Robert Puschendorfa2

a1 School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine and Rehabilitation Sciences, Amphibian Disease Ecology Group, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia

a2 School of Marine and Tropical Biology, Amphibian Disease Ecology Group, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia.

a3 Department of Biological Sciences, University of Idaho, Moscow, USA.

Abstract

Infectious disease is an important driver in biological systems but its importance in conservation has historically been underestimated. Recently, however, researchers have increasingly recognized the impact of diseases on wildlife populations and have grappled with disease-related conservation challenges. For example, the phenomenon of worldwide amphibian declines caused by the fungal disease chytridiomycosis has contributed to the creation of a global Amphibian Conservation Action Plan. The sense of urgency in the protection of amphibians and mitigation of the effects of chytridiomycosis is well-warranted but determining the best way to respond to chytridiomycosis is challenging. Current conservation strategies focus on the preservation of the amphibian hosts, their habitats and their genetic materials. However, we suggest that to confront disease threats fully, particularly in the case of amphibian declines, insight into host–pathogen coevolution may be critical and we must therefore also preserve the pathogen for basic disease research. Here we outline priority targets for virulence research and urge researchers and managers to isolate and archive the pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis to ensure viable long-term amphibian conservation.

(Received November 25 2008)

(Reviewed December 22 2008)

(Accepted January 23 2009)

Correspondence:

c1 School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine and Rehabilitation Sciences, Amphibian Disease Ecology Group, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia. E-mail jamie.voyles@gmail.com

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