Climate change, however, isn't let completely off the hook. Although Bd poses less of a threat to frogs in the lowlands, this study suggests that species at lower elevations are more susceptible to climate changes, putting them at risk if they are unable to adapt or move to higher altitudes.
"It's terrible news," Vredenburg said. "The frogs at the top of the mountain are in trouble because they are experiencing a novel pathogen. The guys at the lower elevations are not in trouble from the fungus, but they're really susceptible to changes in climate."
Vredenburg said Bd was likely introduced into this area of the Andes by human activity, and the results of the study indicate research and conservation efforts should focus on understanding and stopping the spread of the disease. Methods of doing so could include stopping the transport of live amphibians across borders, he said. But understanding the disease also has important implications for human health.
"This pathogen is like no other in the history of the world. Bd outbreaks make bubonic plague look like a slight cough," he said. "We need to understand the basic biology that's driving this terrible pathogen because it's the same biology that drives diseases that affect humans."
Vredenburg has studied the impact of Bd for more than a decade. His research has tracked the spread of the disease through the Sierra Nevada and beyond and shown that some species of frogs are relatively immune to its effects while others are highly susceptible. Future research will focus on those species to learn how they are able to escape Bd's harmful effects and see how that knowledge can be used to save other amphibians.
"Thermal Phsyiology, Disease and Amphibian Declines on the Eastern Slopes of the Andes" was published online in Conservation Biology'/>"/>
|Contact: Jonathan Morales|
San Francisco State University