Landscape structure and ecology influence the spread of a bat fungal disease


Publication Date

June 2018


White‐nose syndrome (WNS), affecting multiple North American bat species during the hibernation period, is a highly pathogenic disease caused by the psychrophilic fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd). Because the fungal pathogen persists in the hibernation site environment independently of the hosts, previous theory on spatial disease dynamics cannot predict WNS epidemics. However, the ability to understand factors contributing to the spread of white‐nose syndrome (WNS) in North America is crucial to the management of infected and susceptible bat populations as well as the conservation of threatened and endangered bat species. Utilizing recent theory on environmental opportunistic pathogens, we modelled the effect of (a) landscape clustering, (b) environmental conditions in hibernacula and (c) microbial competition on the spread of WNS. We used available, already published data to construct and parameterize our model, which takes into account the spatial distribution of hibernation sites, temperature conditions in both the outside ambient and hibernation site environment, bat population dynamics, dispersal and infection by the pathogen, which also has its host‐independent dynamics with the environment. We also consider the effect of outside‐host competition between the pathogen and other micro‐organisms on spatial disease dynamics. Our model suggests that pathogen loads accumulate in poorly connected hibernacula at short host dispersal, which can help found the epidemic. In contrast, invasion of the landscape is most successful at long host dispersal distances, with homogenous hibernation site distribution and heterogeneous between‐hibernation site temperatures. Also, increasing the mean temperature across hibernacula increases fungal growth rate, leading to higher disease prevalence and faster invasion rate. Increasing spatial heterogeneity in hibernaculum temperatures results in the formation of disease hotspots in warmer hibernacula, facilitating more effective spread of the disease in the landscape. Cold‐


Functional Ecology, Vol. 32, no. 11 (2018-06-25).


Chiroptera, Dispersal, Landscape Structure, Opportunistic Pathogen, Outside‐Host Competition, White‐Nose Syndrome, Wns



Subject: topical

Chiroptera; Dispersal; Landscape Structure; Opportunistic Pathogen; Outside‐Host Competition; White‐Nose Syndrome; Wns







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