Natural disturbance reduces disease risk in endangered rainforest frog populations

Roznik, Elizabeth A., Sapsford, Sarah J., Pike, David A., Schwarzkopf, Lin, and Alford, Ross A. (2015) Natural disturbance reduces disease risk in endangered rainforest frog populations. Scientific Reports, 5. 13472. pp. 1-11.

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Natural disturbances can drive disease dynamics in animal populations by altering the microclimates experienced by hosts and their pathogens. Many pathogens are highly sensitive to temperature and moisture, and therefore small changes in habitat structure can alter the microclimate in ways that increase or decrease infection prevalence and intensity in host populations. Here we show that a reduction of rainforest canopy cover caused by a severe tropical cyclone decreased the risk of endangered rainforest frogs (Litoria rheocola) becoming infected by a fungal pathogen (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis). Reductions in canopy cover increased the temperatures and rates of evaporative water loss in frog microhabitats, which reduced B. dendrobatidis infection risk in frogs by an average of 11–28% in cyclone-damaged areas, relative to una ected areas. Natural disturbances to the rainforest canopy can therefore provide an immediate bene t to frogs by altering the microclimate in ways that reduce infection risk. This could increase host survival and reduce the probability of epidemic disease outbreaks. For amphibian populations under immediate threat from this pathogen, targeted manipulation of canopy cover could increase the availability of warmer, drier microclimates and therefore tip the balance from host extinction to coexistence.

Item ID: 43088
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2045-2322
Keywords: amphibian, disease, disturbance, cyclone
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Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC), Australian Department of Environment and Heritage, Australian Geographic Society, Skyrail Rainforest Foundation
Projects and Grants: ARC DP0986537, ARC DP130101635, ARC LP0776927
Date Deposited: 07 Mar 2016 01:12
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050211 Wildlife and Habitat Management @ 40%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060299 Ecology not elsewhere classified @ 60%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9604 Control of Pests, Diseases and Exotic Species > 960409 Control of Pests, Diseases and Exotic Species in Mountain and High Country Environments @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960806 Forest and Woodlands Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 50%
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