We appreciate the comments from Andreone (2016) regarding our proposed alternative strategy for addressing the amphibian crisis. Andreone recognizes the utility of an Incident Command System approach but doubts the feasibility of implementation at an international level. We stated in our original article, however, that ‘the feasibility of our suggestion is debatable, but our point is that radically different approaches are necessary to effectively manage the largest extinction event in modern history’ (Muths & Fisher, 2015). There are examples of where such top-down strategies are being applied; e.g. for the brown tree snake Boiga irregularis (Stanford & Rodda, 2007), and biosecurity planning for Micronesia and Hawaii (NAVFAC Pacific, 2016). Another example is presented by Andreone. In Madagascar a community-wide conservation plan has been developed complete with prioritization of specific actions (Andreone, 2016). As with any top-down strategy, challenges will surface, especially when making decisions that affect economics. We note this caveat in our article, and Andreone points out such issues in Madagascar, where there are mismatches in priorities between biodiversity conservation and civil needs. Our suggestion is that a new paradigm needs to be considered given the gravity of amphibian decline, and one option may be to take a global approach focusing on specific, major threats. Application of an Incident Command System would not necessitate competition with, or emasculation of, local conservation priorities or actions.
A multi-metric assessment of environmental contaminant exposure and effects in an urbanized reach of the Charles River near Watertown, Massachusetts
The Charles River Project provided an opportunity to simultaneously deploy a combination of biomonitoring techniques routinely used by the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment Program, the Biomonitoring of Environmental Status and Trends Project, and the Contaminant Biology Program at an urban site suspected to be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. In addition to these standardized methods, additional techniques were used to further elucidate contaminant exposure and potential impacts of exposure on biota. The purpose of the study was to generate a comprehensive, multi-metric data set to support assessment of contaminant exposure and effects at the site. Furthermore, the data set could be assessed to determine the relative performance of the standardized method suites typically used by the National Water Quality Assessment Program and the Biomonitoring of Environmental Status and Trends Project, as well as the additional biomonitoring methods used in the study to demonstrate ecological effects of contaminant exposure. The Contaminant Effects Workgroup, an advisory committee of the U.S. Geological Survey/Contaminant Biology Program, identified polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons as the contaminant class of greatest concern in urban streams of all sizes. The reach of the Charles River near Watertown, Massachusetts, was selected as the site for this study based on the suspected presence of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon contamination and the presence of common carp (Cyprinus carpio), largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), and white sucker (Catostomus commersoni). All of these fish have extensive contaminant-exposure profiles related to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and other environmental contaminants. This project represented a collaboration of universities, Department of the Interior bureaus including multiple components of the USGS (Biological Resources Discipline and Water Resources Discipline Science Centers, the Contaminant Biology Program, and the Status and Trends of Biological Resources Program), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Samples for analyzing water chemistry, sediment chemistry and toxicity, fish community structure, tissue chemistry, and fish (20 carp, 20 bass, and 40 white sucker) and invertebrate pathology were collected in late August, 2005. This report provides results from the analyses of fish pathology, biomarkers of exposure and effects (reproductive, carcinogenic, genotoxic, and immunologic), sediment chemistry, toxicity, and fish and invertebrate community structure.
ASPN is a Web-based decision tool that assists natural resource managers and planners in identifying and prioritizing social and economic planning issues, and provides guidance on appropriate social and economic methods to address their identified issues.
ASPN covers the breadth of issues facing natural resource management agencies so it is widely applicable for various resources, plans, and projects.
ASPN also realistically accounts for budget and planning time constraints by providing estimated costs and time lengths needed for each of the possible social and economic methods.
ASPN is a valuable starting point for natural resource managers and planners to start working with their agencies’ social and economic specialists. Natural resource management actions have social and economic effects that often require appropriate analyses. Additionally, in the United States, Federal agencies are legally mandated to follow guidance under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires addressing social and economic effects for actions that may cause biophysical impacts. Most natural resource managers and planners lack training in understanding the full range of potential social and economic effects of a management decision as well as an understanding of the variety of methods and analyses available to address these effects. Thus, ASPN provides a common framework which provides consistency within and across natural resource management agencies to assist in identification of pertinent social and economic issues while also allowing the social and economic analyses to be tailored to best meet the needs of the specific plan or project.
ASPN can be used throughout a planning process or be used as a tool to identify potential issues that may be applicable to future management actions. ASPN is useful during the pre-scoping phase as a tool to start thinking about potential social and economic issues as well as to identify potential stakeholders who may be affected. Thinking about this early in the planning process can help with outreach efforts and with understanding the cost and time needed to address the potential social and economic effects. One can use ASPN during the scoping and post-scoping phases as a way to obtain guidance on how to address issues that stakeholders identified. ASPN can also be used as a monitoring tool to identify whether new social and economic issues arise after a management action occurs.
ASPN is developed through a collaborative research effort between the USGS Fort Collins Science Center’s (FORT) Social and Economic Analysis (SEA) Branch and the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. ASPN’s technical development is led by the USGS FORT’s Information Science Branch. An updated release, which will extend ASPN’s functionality and incorporate feature improvements identified in ongoing usability testing, is currently in the planning stages.
White-nose syndrome (WNS) is an emerging and devastating disease of hibernating bats in North America. WNS is caused by a cold-growing fungus (Geomyces destructans) that infects the skin of hibernating bats during winter and causes life-threatening alterations in physiology and behavior. WNS has spread rapidly across the eastern United States and Canada since it was first documented in New York in the winter of 2006. This new disease is causing mass mortality and detrimentally affecting most of the 6 species of bats that hibernate in the northeastern United States. Particularly hard-hit are the little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus), northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis), eastern small-footed bat (Myotis leibii), and federally endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis). Several more species are also now known to be exposed to the fungus in the Midwest and Southeast. The sudden and widespread mortality associated with white-nose syndrome is unprecedented in any of the world’s bats and is a cause for international concern as the fungus and the disease spread farther north, south, and west. Loss of these long-lived insect-eating bats could have substantial adverse effects on agriculture and forestry through loss of natural pest-control services.
Tracking a Deadly Disease
Because WNS is spreading so rapidly, field surveillance data and diagnostic samples must be managed efficiently so that critical information can be communicated quickly among State and Federal land managers, as well as the public. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which plays a primary role in coordinating the Federal response to WNS, worked with the USGS Fort Collins Science Center’s Web Applications Team to develop the White-nose Syndrome Disease Tracking System. Version 1.0 of this system, released for Beta testing in May 2011, addresses two critical objectives:
enable state-level resource managers to effectively manage WNS field and laboratory data, and
provide customizable map and data reports of surveillance findings. The WNS Disease Tracking System subsequently was demonstrated to resource managers involved in the WNS response, and system users are assisting with in-depth testing. Once resource-management users are all trained (autumn 2011), they will begin populating the system with surveillance data, much of which will be immediately available to the public.
WNS version 1.0 was released into production in November, 2011 and state points-of-contact are currently being trainined. New users are providing ciritical feedback for WNS version 2.0, which is currently being planned with Fish and Wildlife Region 5 and the National White-nose Syndrome Data Management Team.
Key System Components
Disease Tracking: Customizable disease tracking maps and data exports for all U.S. states and counties
Disease Reporting: Tissue sample database management for authorized resource managers as well as a publicly accessible database of disease reporting contacts for all U.S. States and Federal resource management agencies
Diagnostic Labs: Directory of laboratories involved in white-nose syndrome diagnostic analyses
White-nose Syndrome threatens the survival of hibernating bats in North America
During the winter of 2006/2007, an affliction of unknown origin dubbed “White-Nose Syndrome” (WNS) began devastating colonies of hibernating bats in a small area around Albany, New York. Colonies of hibernating bats were reduced 81-97% at the affected caves and mines that were surveyed. Since then, White-Nose Syndrome has been detected more than 700 kilometers (450 mi) away from the original site, and has infected bats in eight surrounding states. Most species of bats that hibernate in the region are now known to be affected and little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus), northern long-eared bats (M. septentrionalis), and federally listed (endangered) Indiana bats (M. sodalis) have been hit particularly hard. The sudden and widespread mortality associated with White-Nose Syndrome is unprecedented in hibernating bats, which differ from most other small mammals in that their survival strategy is to live life in the slow lane—their life history adaptations include high rates of survival and low fecundity, resulting in low potential for population growth. Most of the affected species are long lived (~5-15 years or more) and have only one offspring per year. Subsequently, bat numbers do not fluctuate widely over time, and populations of bats affected by White-Nose Syndrome will not recover quickly. Epizootic disease outbreaks have never been previously documented in hibernating bats...
Summary and analysis of the U.S. government Bat Banding Program
This report summarizes the U.S. Government Bat Banding Program (BBP) from 1932 to 1972. More than 2 million bands were issued during the program, of which approximately 1.5 million bands were applied to 36 bat species by scientists in many locations in North America including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Central America. Throughout the BBP, banders noticed numerous and deleterious effects on bats, leading to a moratorium on bat banding by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and a resolution to cease banding by the American Society of Mammalogists in 1973. One of the main points of the memorandum written to justify the moratorium was to conduct a "detailed evaluation of the files of the bat-banding program." However, a critical and detailed evaluation of the BBP was never completed. In an effort to satisfy this need, I compiled a detailed history of the BBP by examining the files and conducting a literature review on bat banding activities during the program. I also provided a case study in managing data and applying current mark-recapture theory to estimate survival using the information from a series of bat bands issued to Clyde M. Senger during the BBP. The majority of bands applied by Senger were to Townsend's big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii), a species of special concern for many states within its geographic range. I developed a database management system for the bat banding records and then analyzed and modeled survival of hibernating Townsend's big-eared bats at three main locations in Washington State using Cormack-Jolly-Seber (CJS) open models and the modeling capabilities of Program MARK. This analysis of a select dataset in the BBP files provided relatively precise estimates of survival for wintering Townsend's big-eared bats. However, this dataset is unique due to its well-maintained and complete state and because there were high recapture rates over the course of banding; it is doubtful that other unpublished datasets of the same quality exist buried in the BBP files for further analyses. Lastly, I make several recommendations based on the findings of this summary and analysis, the most important of which is that marking bats with standard metal or split-ring forearm bands should not be considered for mark-recapture studies unless the information sought and the potential for obtaining unbiased estimates from that information vastly outweighs the potential negative effects to the bats.
Bats are ecologically and economically important mammals. The life histories of bats (particularly their low reproductive rates and the need for some species to gather in large aggregations at limited numbers of roosting sites) make their populations vulnerable to declines. Many of the species of bats in the United States (U.S.) and territories are categorized as endangered or threatened, have been candidates for such categories, or are considered species of concern. The importance and vulnerability of bat populations makes monitoring trends in their populations a goal for their future management. However, scientifically rigorous monitoring of bat populations requires well-planned, statistically defensible efforts. This volume reports findings of an expert workshop held to examine the topic of monitoring populations of bats. The workshop participants included leading experts in sampling and analysis of wildlife populations, as well as experts in the biology and conservation of bats. Findings are reported in this volume under two sections. Part I of the report presents contributed papers that provide overviews of past and current efforts at monitoring trends in populations of bats in the U.S. and territories. These papers consider current techniques and problems, and summarize what is known about the status and trends in populations of selected groups of bats. The contributed papers in Part I also include a description of the monitoring program developed for bat populations in the United Kingdom, a critique of monitoring programs in wildlife in general with recommendations for survey and sampling strategies, and a compilation and analysis of existing data on trends in bats of the U.S. and territories. Efforts directed at monitoring bat populations are piecemeal and have shortcomings. In Part II of the report, the workshop participants provide critical analyses of these problems and develop recommendations for improving methods, defining objectives and priorities, gaining mandates, and enhancing information exchange to facilitate future efforts for monitoring trends in U.S. bat populations.
Monitoring trends in bat populations of the United States and territories: status of the science and recommendations for the future
Populations of bats (Order Chiroptera) are difficult to monitor. However, current recognition of the importance of bats to biodiversity, their ecological and economic value as ecosystem components, and their vulnerability to declines makes monitoring trends in their populations a much-needed cornerstone for their future management. We report finding and recommendations for a recent expert workshop on monitoring trends in bat populations in the United States and territories…
White-Nose Syndrome (WNS) is a devastating disease that threatens the survival of hibernating bats in North America. Since first documented in the winter of 2005/2006, WNS has spread from a very small area of New York across at least two thousand kilometers in 25 states and 4 Canadian provinces. Over five million bats are estimated to have died during the past 7 winters after contact with WNS, and all four federally listed endangered species and subspecies of hibernating cave bats are in harm’s way. The sudden and widespread mortality associated with WNS is completely unprecedented in hibernating bats and it is not anticipated that their populations will recover quickly, if at all.
An additional 19 species of hibernating cave bats occur in the United States and, considering available information, all are potentially susceptible. WNS is named for the ubiquitous presence of a newly identified species of cold-loving fungus (Pseudogynmnoascus destructans) that is capable of penetrating and infecting the skin and wing membranes of bats during hibernation. It is critical that research efforts directed toward WNS incorporate the expertise of scientists familiar with the ecology of bats and hibernation physiology.
There are three primary objectives to this project as follows: continue to help coordinate research efforts directed toward white-nose syndrome at a national level and provide technical support on aspects of bat ecology to USGS researchers and others in the scientific and resource management community; assess the possible behavioral mechanisms by which skin infection from the causative fungus specifically acts to cause bat mortality; assess the possible physiological mechanisms by which skin infection from the causative fungus specifically acts to cause bat mortality.
There is now strong evidence that the fungus Pseudogynmnoascus destructans is an exotic/invasive species experiencing ecological release in new ecosystems. Based on recently completed and ongoing studies at the USGS National Wildlife Health Center and other laboratories, the cold-loving fungus is now considered the primary causative agent of WNS. However, the disease etiology is unusual because it likely involves the fungus causing aberrant behaviors or disruptions in the unique physiology of wintering bats, rather than typical pathological effects, such as organ failure. Collaboration between USGS disease specialists and bat ecologists is helping bridge gaps in understanding that allow us to rapidly make progress in better addressing this unprecedented disease. The novel video surveillance systems developed by USGS researchers and their partners for deployment in bat hibernation sites are functioning well over entire winters and allowing new types of data to be collected. Video data resulting from this work are beginning to reveal the previously undocumented behaviors of hibernating bats and are offering insight into how fungal infection changes hibernation behaviors in several species affected by WNS. Distributional modeling of WNS mortality framed new hypotheses of disease etiology that can now be tested through additional studies. Physiological studies have documented electrolyte depletion in WNS bats and led to support of the USGS-formulated hypothesis that dehydration plays a major role in the susceptibility of bats to P. destructans. Ongoing mathematical modeling is revealing that humidity of bat hibernacula likely has a major influence on the susceptibility of certain species and may possibly explain why European bats are less susceptible to fungal infection.