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Landscape epidemiology of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in central California

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Amphibian chytridiomycosis (caused by Batrachochytrium dendrobatis; Bd) was first identified in 1998 and has since been implicated in numerous amphibian declines worldwide. Most researchers have since investigated broad-scale geographic and taxonomic occurrences of the pathogen in tropical lotic or cool montane systems. In this study, we analyzed how environmental factors, land use practices, and landscape structure may affect the dynamics of the pathogen's distribution in a landscape dominated by lentic systems within a region of Mediterranean climate. We quantified the occurrence of Bd testing the six resident amphibian species that occur in 54 isolated perennial and ephemeral ponds in central California between May and June annually from 2004 to 2007. The geographic distribution of Bd within the landscape varied markedly between years. Inter-annual variation in climate affected the pond landscape structure indicating that climate conditions indirectly influence the distribution of the pathogen. Fourteen ponds, 12 perennial and 2 ephemeral, were positive for Bd≥3 yr of the study and were treated as Bd hotpots for comparative purposes. Occurrences of Bd within the landscape were spatially autocorrelated and ponds within ~1000–1500 m of Bd hotspots were more likely to test positive. Local land use, (presence/absence of grazing or recreational activity and developed lands), did not influence Bd status of a pond, indicating that the most likely means of Bd transmission between ponds may be waterfowl and/or amphibians.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2010

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