Predicting the Spread of White-Nose Syndrome in Bats: A Strategy for Prioritizing Resources
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In 2006, cavers near Albany, New York first documented a few hibernating bats with a curious white fungus growing on their muzzles. Over the next seven winters, the aptly named white-nose syndrome (WNS) has decimated bat populations throughout the eastern United States, causing average declines of over 70%. The migration of WNS westward into regions with higher bat diversity and more extensive cave systems has potential catastrophic consequences for species populations and the ecosystem services they provide. Predicting areas particularly susceptible to WNS as well as potential pathways for transmission of its fungal spores across the U.S. can inform targeted management practices. However, data on bat population sizes, locations, and dynamics is scarce. This analysis uses the limited data available to highlight areas of particular concern. Susceptibility to WNS infection at the county level was calculated using three variables: number of potential roost sites, bat species, and approximated cave temperature. Potential pathways of spore transmission were identified using susceptibility ratings and estimates of past dispersal distances. The results identify counties of interest in the Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest as well as a potential corridor facilitating transport of fungal spores into western states from Oklahoma and north Texas to eastern Colorado. Targeting these areas for future research and monitoring efforts could be an efficient use of limited resources and potentially curtail the impacts of this devastating epizootic.
CitationIhlo, Christy M. (2013). Predicting the Spread of White-Nose Syndrome in Bats: A Strategy for Prioritizing Resources. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/6799.
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Rights for Collection: Nicholas School of the Environment