Mechanisms underlying host persistence following amphibian disease emergence determine appropriate management strategies

Ecol Lett. 2021 Jan;24(1):130-148. doi: 10.1111/ele.13621. Epub 2020 Oct 16.


Emerging infectious diseases have caused many species declines, changes in communities and even extinctions. There are also many species that persist following devastating declines due to disease. The broad mechanisms that enable host persistence following declines include evolution of resistance or tolerance, changes in immunity and behaviour, compensatory recruitment, pathogen attenuation, environmental refugia, density-dependent transmission and changes in community composition. Here we examine the case of chytridiomycosis, the most important wildlife disease of the past century. We review the full breadth of mechanisms allowing host persistence, and synthesise research on host, pathogen, environmental and community factors driving persistence following chytridiomycosis-related declines and overview the current evidence and the information required to support each mechanism. We found that for most species the mechanisms facilitating persistence have not been identified. We illustrate how the mechanisms that drive long-term host population dynamics determine the most effective conservation management strategies. Therefore, understanding mechanisms of host persistence is important because many species continue to be threatened by disease, some of which will require intervention. The conceptual framework we describe is broadly applicable to other novel disease systems.

Keywords: Chytridiomycosis; compensatory recruitment; density-dependent transmission; environmental refugia; host-pathogen; management; population persistence; population recovery; resistance; tolerance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amphibians
  • Animals
  • Chytridiomycota*
  • Mycoses* / veterinary
  • Population Dynamics