Sustain Our Nation's Forests and Grasslands

Rapid Response Plan seeks to address threat from amphibian fungal pathogen

The Roughskin Newt (Taricha granulosa) – is a common species in Pacific Northwest forests. It is also one 200 salamander species at risk of infection with Bsal, a recently discovered lethal fungal pathogen. Forest Service photo.

OREGON—A new Bsal Rapid Response Plan developed to address the emerging threat posed by the amphibian fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans or Bsal is now available. Although this lethal pathogen has not yet been detected in North America, experts believe that the chance of a future outbreak is high and may severely impact nearly 200 species of salamanders and the ecosystems they inhabit.

Bsal, discovered in Europe in 2013, is a fungal pathogen that causes the disease chytridiomycosis in amphibians. It is considered one of the greatest disease threats to amphibian biodiversity and may lead to widespread mortality and extinctions worldwide. Already nearly one-third of amphibians are in decline across the globe. Recent research on Bsal has shown that many North American salamander species will be affected by this disease.

“As a member of the Bsal Response Working Group, I was especially concerned with creating a response plan with flexibility so that case-by-case decisions could be made,” said Dede Olson, research ecologist, Pacific Northwest Research Station. “This response template does a fantastic job in allowing such flexibility, and showing where in the process it might be applied.”

“Because the pathogen has not yet been found in North America, we have a rare opportunity to redefine what it means to be proactive by planning ahead of its expected arrival,” stated Priya Nanjappa, Amphibian and Reptile Program manager for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

The Bsal Rapid Response Plan template is the product of collaborative effort between the the Bsal Task Force and the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Committee of AFWA, which includes the Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station. The Bsal Task Force includes participation from Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. and coordinates research, response, diagnostics, surveillance, data management, decision support and communication related to Bsal. It represents a strong collaboration among state, federa, and academic scientists and other private and nongovernmental partners.