Co-generating a system model to improve opportunities for proactive management of the Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) threat in North America

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Principal Investigator: 
Evan Campbell Grant, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Riley Bernard, Pennsylvania State University and USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Associated Program: 

In the last four decades, amphibian populations across the world have experienced declines attributed to climate change, habitat alteration, and infectious disease. Notably, many of these declines have been attributed to the introduction of novel pathogens through human-mediated movement to naïve amphibian species or populations (e.g., FV3-like ranavirus and Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis; Cunningham 2018). Successful control of these pathogens remains elusive, despite continued research. Some major challenges in the prevention, mitigation, and response to these pathogens include 1) limited control options for the initial introduction and establishment of the pathogen; 2) widely dispersed and poorly understood host populations over multiple states and regions; and 3) deep uncertainties in ecological characteristics of the pathogen, populations, and effectiveness of potential treatments. Further, control may be limited because of fragmented management authority and responsibility by diverse state, federal, and provincial agencies. In order to gain traction in mitigating these pervasive threats to amphibian populations, we propose to develop a co-generated system model, or influence diagram, to improve opportunities for proactive management of a newly identified chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans [Bsal]). Using tools from decision theory, we will create a model that will be used to (1) quantitatively evaluate potential effects of alternative management actions, (2) generate novel actions for mitigation and control, and (3) improve communication with stakeholders and the public regarding Bsal and amphibian management decisions. Relevant to the mission of SESYNC, our approach will identify both ecological and social factors that influence the susceptibility and control of Bsal in native US amphibian populations.

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