Fungal Pathogens and Disease-induced Extinction: Are Fungal Diseases Different?

Principal Investigator(s): 

Jamie Voyles, Cheryl Briggs, and Marm Kilpatrick

Fungi have not traditionally been regarded as a conservation threat. Yet, many newly discovered fungal diseases are threatening wild and domestic animals, agriculturally important crops, and human health. Fungal diseases have caused some mass-mortality events and potentially extinctions in vertebrate hosts. The most notable examples include white-nose syndrome in bats and amphibian chytridiomycosis.

This working group is considering the theoretical mechanisms that could predispose host populations to extinction. They are asking if these mechanisms are sufficient to explain the large impacts that recently emerging fungal diseases, such as chytridiomycosis and white nose syndrome, are having on their host populations, or if other unique features of fungal diseases are contributing to their impacts. They are using pre-existing datasets to address specific questions regarding transmission, rate of spread, the range of host species and pathogen persistence independent of the host, all of which are factors implicated in disease-induced extinction. This Working Group is also addressing the conservation challenges associated with highly lethal emerging diseases in wildlife and making specific recommendations for research and conservation for newly emerging fungal diseases that threaten their hosts with extinction.

UPDATED: October 2014

Working Group 1: Eighteen participants from four countries attended their first meeting on March 18-22, 2013. The group was diverse, including participants from different career stages (e.g. graduate students and full professors) and from different scientific fields (e.g. molecular ecologists, physiologists, mathematical modelers, epidemiologists and evolutionary biologists).

Policy paper  Voyles et al., Beyond Too Little, Too Late: Managing Emerging Infectious Diseases Requires International Policy and Partnerships, EcoHealth

Working Group 2: Seventeen participants joined the second meeting on September 12-14, 2013, including four people by video conference. They continued their work on a second manuscript entitled "Context dependent conservation responses to wildlife disease". They aim to submit this second paper to a conservation journal. They also outlined additional future manuscripts and assigned sub-groups to work on them.

This work is supported by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, a Center funded by NSF (Grant #EF-0553768), the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the State of California.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons/Bureau of Land Management

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