Effects of amphibian phylogeny, climate and human impact on the occurrence of the amphibian-killing chytrid fungus

Leonardo D. Bacigalupe, Claudio Soto-Azat, Cristobal García-Vera, Ismael Barría-Oyarzo, Enrico L. Rezende

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Chytridiomycosis, due to the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), has been associated with the alarming decline and extinction crisis of amphibians worldwide. Because conservation programs are implemented locally, it is essential to understand how the complex interactions among host species, climate and human activities contribute to Bd occurrence at regional scales. Using weighted phylogenetic regressions and model selection, we investigated geographic patterns of Bd occurrence along a latitudinal gradient of 1500 km within a biodiversity hot spot in Chile (1845 individuals sampled from 253 sites and representing 24 species), and its association with climatic, socio-demographic and economic variables. Analyses show that Bd prevalence decreases with latitude although it has increased by almost 10% between 2008 and 2013, possibly reflecting an ongoing spread of Bd following the introduction of Xenopus laevis. Occurrence of Bd was higher in regions with high gross domestic product (particularly near developed centers) and with a high variability in rainfall regimes, whereas models including other bioclimatic or geographic variables, including temperature, exhibited substantially lower fit and virtually no support based on Akaike weights. In addition, Bd prevalence exhibited a strong phylogenetic signal, with five species having high numbers of infected individuals and higher prevalence than the average of 13.3% across all species. Taken together, our results highlight that Bd in Chile might still be spreading south, facilitated by a subset of species that seem to play an important epidemiological role maintaining this pathogen in the communities, in combination with climatic and human factors affecting the availability and quality of amphibian breeding sites. This information may be employed to design conservation strategies and mitigate the impacts of Bd in the biodiversity hot spot of southern Chile, and similar studies may prove useful to disentangle the role of different factors contributing to the emergence and spread of this catastrophic disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3543-3553
Number of pages11
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017


  • Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis
  • Chile
  • amphibian population declines
  • chytrid fungus
  • chytridiomycosis
  • emerging infectious diseases

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • General Environmental Science


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