Our new paper on the role of disease in wildlife declines is now published!
Grogan, L. F., Peel, A. J., Kerlin, D., Ellis, W., Jones, D., Hero, J.-M., McCallum, H. (2018) Is disease a major causal factor in declines? An evidence framework and case study on koala chlamydiosis. Biological Conservation 221:334-344.
In this paper we:
Specifically address pervasive misconceptions concerning the role of infectious diseases in declines
Present a detailed Evidence Framework outlining specific veterinary and ecological methodologies available to provide the evidence required to assess the relative role of disease
Demonstrate the application of this Evidence Framework with a detailed case study investigating the role of chlamydial disease in koala population declines
Determining the role of an infectious agent in contributing to wildlife population declines is a pervasive problemin the field of conservation biology. We expand on a recently proposed broad investigative approach for disease,with a systematic framework outlining the specific types of individual- and population-scale empirical evidencerequired to demonstrate whether a pathogen is a component cause of declines in wild animal populations. Usingkoala (Phascolarctos cinereus) population declines and their putative association with the bacterial diseasechlamydiosis (Family Chlamydiaceae) as a case study, we review the relevant published literature and synthesizea logical conceptual argument based on our suggested framework. Available empirical evidence supports a rolefor chlamydiosis contributing to host mortality and sterility, and cannot rule out a role of chlamydiosis as acomponent cause of koala population declines. However, the relative importance of chlamydiosis (among otherthreatening processes) as a driver of changes in koala demography and autecology may differ depending on theparticular population or system examined, and this has yet to be elucidated over the koala's distributional range.Our approach allows us to highlight current research gaps in order to assist with future policy planning andconservation strategy. We recommend that a similar approach will assist in the evaluation of the role of diseasein population declines in other ecological systems.