Distribution models for the amphibian chytrid Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in Costa Rica: proposing climatic refuges as a conservation tool

Puschendorf, Robert, Carnaval, Ana C., VanDerWal, Jeremy, Zumbado-Ulate, Héctor, Chaves, Gerardo, Bolaños, Federico, and Alford, Ross A. (2009) Distribution models for the amphibian chytrid Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in Costa Rica: proposing climatic refuges as a conservation tool. Diversity and Distributions, 15 (3). pp. 401-408.

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Aim: We use novel data on the occurrence of the amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in Costa Rica to model its potential distribution in that country.

Location: Lowland and montane areas of Costa Rica.

Methods: We use published and new data on the presence of B. dendrobatidis on 647 amphibians (35 species). Screening was performed through histological techniques by which 156 sites were surveyed. Of these, 21 were found to have the amphibian chytrid. Maxent, a presence-only distribution modelling technique, was used to create 100 predictions of B. dendrobatidis occurrence, of which the most accurate 10 (based on area under the receiver-operating characteristic curve) were chosen to create a composite distribution model. This approach increased confidence in model predictions, distinguishing areas of high probability of occurrence and low variability across model runs (higher confidence) from those with high probability but high variability (lower confidence).

Results: Predicted distribution patterns were not uniform along Costa Rica's mountains, where most amphibian declines have occurred. The pathogen was predicted to occur with greater probability on the Caribbean slopes than on the Pacific slopes. While high temperature seems to constrain the distribution of the pathogen, areas that also have small amounts of rainfall during the driest period of the year were predicted to have low probability of B. dendrobatidis occurrence.

Main conclusions: The model predicts that the Santa Elena Peninsula and the Central Valley have low probabilities of B. dendrobatidis occurrence, suggesting that they could function as refuges for amphibians. In such refugial areas, one could expect B. dendrobatidis to be absent, or to be present in low abundance (rendering an epidemic outbreak of chytridiomycosis unlikely). Craugastor ranoides, which belongs to a group of frogs particularly sensitive to chytridiomycosis outbreaks, persists in the hot and seasonally dry Santa Elena Peninsula but disappeared in the nearby colder and more humid Guanacaste Volcanic Chain. This information suggests that climatic refuges, where environmental conditions prevent disease outbreaks, could be an important component in amphibian conservation.

Item ID: 4796
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1472-4642
Keywords: amphibian declines, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, Costa Rica, climatic refuge, Guanacaste, Maxent, tropical biology
Date Deposited: 21 Jul 2009 06:58
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9604 Control of Pests, Diseases and Exotic Species > 960404 Control of Animal Pests, Diseases and Exotic Species in Forest and Woodlands Environments @ 70%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960301 Climate Change Adaptation Measures @ 30%
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