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Batrachochytrium salamandriovrans (Bsal) in Appalachia—Using scenario building to proactively prepare for a wildlife disease outbreak caused by an invasive amphibian chytrid fungus

November 8, 2019

Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal), a pathogenic chytrid fungus, is nonnative to the United States and poses a disease threat to vulnerable amphibian hosts. The Bsal fungus may lead to increases in threatened, endangered, and sensitive status listings at State, Tribal, and Federal levels, resulting in financial costs associated with implementing the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The United States is a global biodiversity hotspot for salamanders, an order of amphibians that is particularly vulnerable to developing a disease called chytridiomycosis when exposed to Bsal. Published Bsal risk assessments for North America have suggested that salamanders within the Appalachian region of the United States are at a high risk. In May 2017, a workshop was facilitated by the Department of the Interior’s Strategic Sciences Group. During the workshop, a discussion-based incident-response exercise focused on a hypothetical Bsal disease outbreak in Appalachia was led by U.S. Geological Survey staff members. Participants included representatives of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Appalachian Landscape Conservation Cooperative, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service. Scenario building was used to brainstorm cascading consequences (social, economic, and ecological) of a Bsal disease outbreak in the Appalachian region. This report highlights the management and science actions that could be undertaken to ensure an effective, rapid response to a Bsal introduction into the United States.