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Refugia and connectivity sustain amphibian metapopulations afflicted by disease

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Publication details

JournalEcology Letters
DateAccepted/In press - 28 May 2015
DateE-pub ahead of print - 25 Jun 2015
DatePublished (current) - 14 Jul 2015
Issue number8
Number of pages11
Pages (from-to)853-863
Early online date25/06/15
Original languageEnglish


Metapopulation persistence in fragmented landscapes depends on habitat patches that can support resilient local populations and sufficient connectivity between patches. Yet epidemiological theory for metapopulations has largely overlooked the capacity of particular patches to act as refuges from disease, and has suggested that connectivity can undermine persistence. Here, we show that relatively warm and saline wetlands are environmental refuges from chytridiomycosis for an endangered Australian frog, and act jointly with connectivity to sustain frog metapopulations. We coupled models of microclimate and infection probability to map chytrid prevalence, and demonstrate a strong negative relationship between chytrid prevalence and the persistence of frog populations. Simulations confirm that frog metapopulations are likely to go extinct when they lack environmental refuges from disease and lose connectivity between patches. This study demonstrates that environmental heterogeneity can mediate host-pathogen interactions in fragmented landscapes, and provides evidence that connectivity principally supports host metapopulations afflicted by facultative pathogens.

Bibliographical note

© 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd/CNRS. This is an author produced version of a paper accepted for publication in Ecology Letters. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy.

    Research areas

  • Amphibian, Chytrid, Colonisation, Conservation, Extinction, Litoria raniformis, Microclimate, Pathogen, Reservoir host

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