Policy ForumBiodiversity

Averting a North American biodiversity crisis

Science  31 Jul 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6247, pp. 481-482
DOI: 10.1126/science.aab1052

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Summary

In the midst of an ongoing sixth mass extinction (1), more than 40% of all amphibians are threatened (2). Chytridiomycosis, an emerging infectious disease (EID) caused by the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), has been more devastating than any infectious wildlife disease recorded, with >200 amphibian species collapsing to or near extinction (3). Recently, a new infectious chytrid fungal pathogen from Asia and specific to salamanders (4), Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal), has been described (5). With no effective means to control spread of Bsal once it is established in wild host populations, Bsal invasion of North America could lead to rapid epizootic (wildlife epidemic) declines and extinctions in the world's richest and most diverse salamander fauna. We demonstrate the likelihood of Bsal introduction to North America via international trade, the likelihood of species being exposed to Bsal, and the potential impact of species exposure to Bsal. This presents a unique opportunity for wildlife management officials and the international amphibian trade community to prevent the spread of this deadly pathogen and to develop and implement rapid risk assessments and international responses to EIDs in wildlife.