Priorities for management of chytridiomycosis in Australia: saving frogs from extinction

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Skerratt, LF, Berger, L, Clemann, N, Hunter, DA, Marantelli, G, Newell, DA, Philips, A, McFadden, M, Hines, HB, Scheele, BC, Brannelly, LA, Speare, R, Versteegan, S, Cashins, SD & West, M 2016, 'Priorities for management of chytridiomycosis in Australia: saving frogs from extinction', Wildlife Research, vol. 43, no. 2, pp. 105-120.

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To protect Australian amphibian biodiversity, we have identified and prioritised frog species at an imminent risk of extinction from chytridiomycosis, and devised national management and research priorities for disease mitigation. Six Australian frogs have not been observed in the wild since the initial emergence of chytridiomycosis and may be extinct. Seven extant frog species were assessed as needing urgent conservation interventions because of (1) their small populations and/or ongoing declines throughout their ranges (southern corroboree frog (Pseudophryne corroboree, New South Wales), northern corroboree frog (Pseudophryne pengilleyi, Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales), Baw Baw frog (Philoria frosti, Victoria), Litoria spenceri (spotted tree frog, Victoria, New South Wales), Kroombit tinkerfrog (Taudactylus pleione, Queensland), armoured mist frog (Litoria lorica, Queensland)) or (2) predicted severe decline associated with the spread of chytridiomycosis in the case of Tasmanian tree frog (Litoria burrowsae, Tasmania). For these species, the risk of extinction is high, but can be mitigated. They require increased survey effort to define their distributional limits and to monitor and detect further population changes, as well as well-resourced management strategies that include captive assurance populations. A further 22 frog species were considered at a moderate to lower risk of extinction from chytridiomycosis. Management actions that identify and create or maintain habitat refugia from chytridiomycosis and target other threatening processes such as habitat loss and degradation may be effective in promoting their recovery. Our assessments for some of these species remain uncertain and further taxonomical clarification is needed to determine their conservation importance. Management actions are currently being developed and trialled to mitigate the threat posed by chytridiomycosis. However, proven solutions to facilitate population recovery in the wild are lacking; hence, we prioritise research topics to achieve this aim. Importantly, the effectiveness of novel management solutions will likely differ among species due to variation in disease ecology, highlighting the need for species-specific research. We call for an independent management and research fund of AU$15 million over 5 years to be allocated to recovery actions as determined by a National Chytridiomycosis Working Group of amphibian managers and scientists. Procrastination on this issue will likely result in additional extinction of Australia’s amphibians in the near future.