Proactive management outperforms reactive strategies for wildlife disease control

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Molly Bletz, Evan Grant, Graziella DiRenzo


Finding effective pathogen mitigation strategies is one of the biggest challenges humans face today. In the context of wildlife, emerging infectious diseases have repeatedly caused widespread host morbidity and population declines of numerous taxa. In areas yet unaffected by a pathogen, a proactive management approach has the potential to minimize or prevent host mortality. However, we typically lack critical information on the disease dynamics in a novel host system, have limited empirical evidence on efficacy of management interventions, and lack validated predictive models. As such, quantitative support for identifying effective management interventions is largely absent, and the opportunity for proactive management is often missed. Here, we consider the potential invasion of the chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, whose expected emergence in North America poses a severe threat to hundreds of salamander species in this global salamander biodiversity hotspot. We developed and parameterized a dynamic multi-state occupancy model to forecast host and pathogen occurrence, following expected emergence of the pathogen, and evaluated the response of salamander populations to different management scenarios. Our model forecasts that taking no action is expected to be catastrophic to salamander populations. We also show that proactive action is expected to maximize host occupancy outcomes compared to ‘wait and see’ reactive management, thus providing quantitative support for proactive management opportunities. Additionally, we found that Bsal eradication is unlikely under any evaluated management options. Contrary to our expectations, even early pathogen detection had little effect on Bsal or host occupancy outcomes. Our analysis provides quantitative support that proactive management is the optimal strategy for promoting persistence of disease-threatened salamander populations. Our approach fills a critical gap by defining a framework for evaluating management options prior to pathogen invasion and can thus serve as a template for addressing novel disease threats that jeopardize wildlife and human health.



Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Life Sciences


wildlife disease, proactive, Amphibians, chytridiomycosis, conservation management


Published: 2024-05-13 12:34

Last Updated: 2024-06-08 14:54

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CC-BY Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International

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Conflict of interest statement:

Data and Code Availability Statement:
Data and Code are not currently publically available. It is available upon request to the authors