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High adult mortality in disease-challenged frog populations increases vulnerability to drought

Scheele, Ben C., Hunter, David A., Banks, Sam C., Pierson, Jennifer C., Skerratt, Lee F., Webb, Rebecca and Driscoll, Don A. 2016, High adult mortality in disease-challenged frog populations increases vulnerability to drought, Journal of animal ecology, vol. 85, no. 6, pp. 1453-1460, doi: 10.1111/1365-2656.12569.

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Title High adult mortality in disease-challenged frog populations increases vulnerability to drought
Author(s) Scheele, Ben C.
Hunter, David A.
Banks, Sam C.
Pierson, Jennifer C.
Skerratt, Lee F.
Webb, Rebecca
Driscoll, Don A.ORCID iD for Driscoll, Don A. orcid.org/0000-0002-1560-5235
Journal name Journal of animal ecology
Volume number 85
Issue number 6
Start page 1453
End page 1460
Total pages 8
Publisher Wiley-Blackwell
Place of publication Chichester, Eng.
Publication date 2016-11
ISSN 1365-2656
Keyword(s) amphibian declines
chytrid fungus
demography
environmental stochasticity
life-history
niche contraction
population dynamics
recruitment failure
life history
Summary Pathogen emergence can drive major changes in host population demography, with implications for population dynamics and sensitivity to environmental fluctuations. The amphibian disease chytridiomycosis, caused by infection with the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), is implicated in the severe decline of over 200 amphibian species. In species that have declined but not become extinct, Bd persists and can cause substantial ongoing mortality. High rates of mortality associated with Bd may drive major changes in host demography, but this process is poorly understood. Here, we compared population age structure of Bd-infected populations, Bd-free populations, and museum specimens collected prior to Bd emergence for the endangered Australian frog, Litoria verreauxii alpina (alpine tree frog). We then used population simulations to investigate how pathogen-associated demographic shifts affect the ability of populations to persist in stochastic environments. We found that Bd-infected populations have a severely truncated age structure associated with very high rates of annual adult mortality. Near-complete annual adult turnover in Bd-infected populations means that individuals breed once, compared with Bd-free populations where adults may breed across multiple years. Our simulations showed that truncated age structure erodes the capacity of populations to withstand periodic recruitment failure; a common challenge for species reproducing in uncertain environments. We document previously undescribed demographic shifts associated with a globally emerging pathogen and demonstrate how these shifts alter host ecology. Truncation of age structure associated with Bd effectively reduces host niche width, and can help explain the contraction of L. v. alpina to perennial waterbodies where the risk of drought-induced recruitment failure is low. Reduced capacity to tolerate other sources of mortality may explain variation in decline severity among other chytridiomycosis-challenged species and highlights the potential to mitigate disease impacts through minimising other sources of mortality.
Language eng
DOI 10.1111/1365-2656.12569
Field of Research 060207 Population Ecology
050204 Environmental Impact Assessment
Socio Economic Objective 970105 Expanding Knowledge in the Environmental Sciences
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
ERA Research output type C Journal article
Copyright notice ©2016, The Authors
Free to Read? Yes
Free to Read Start Date 2017-12-01
Persistent URL http://hdl.handle.net/10536/DRO/DU:30085156

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Every reasonable effort has been made to ensure that permission has been obtained for items included in DRO. If you believe that your rights have been infringed by this repository, please contact drosupport@deakin.edu.au.