Bat White-Nose Syndrome in 2014: A Brief Assessment Seven Years After Discovery of a Virulent Fungal Pathogen in North America
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North American bats face numerous challenges on the modern landscape, including habitat loss, climate change, and energy development, but none is as immediate a threat to multiple species as white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease of unknown origin that is responsible for unparalleled rapid declines in bat populations. White-nose syndrome (WNS) was unknown to science before it was discovered in New York in 2007 and took us all by surprise. Since then the conservation and scientific communities have come together to mount a coordinated international effort to address research and management needs to respond to this growing disaster. Among many accomplishments, we have made great progress in understanding the disease, the biology of the causative fungus, and the biology and physiology of hibernating bats; we have developed guidance focusing on containing the fungus to slow its spread; we are exploring multiple novel approaches to treat bats and affected environments in ways that reduce the impacts of the disease; and we are now field testing a standardized and robust monitoring strategy to assess population trends for all bat species across North America. The incredible progress made to date would not be possible without the dedication of the many individuals, institutions, and government agencies who have engaged in this issue and lent their support. Robust insectivorous bat populations are an important part of a healthy ecosystem, and we benefit greatly from the services these voracious predators provide. Therefore, we must do all we can to understand and manage WNS if we are to conserve our native bat species.