In cooperation with Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Mount Union College, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and Geauga Park District
In March, cooperators began a project to describe the host and geographic range of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) on amphibians in Northeastern Ohio. Bd is the fungal organism that causes an emerging infectious disease implicated as one cause of amphibian declines worldwide.
Bd has been found previously in field collected amphibians from northeast Ohio, and the possibility exists that the diverse amphibian population currently residing in our area resulted from a previous, unrecorded population decline that took place sometime after the initial introduction of Bd to the area. Moreover, wetlands in Ohio have been subjected to large disturbances for the last 150 years. Intensive agriculture, mining, and industry along with an ever increasing human population have had significant impact on wildlife species including amphibians.
Since Bd is present, this study will help determine if it is widespread or limited in occurrence. If widespread, the amphibian species remaining in the region are likely resistant to the lethal effects of this pathogen. However, if Bd is only present in limited locations or species, the amphibian populations of this region may still be in danger of declines.
Volunteers and staff from Cleveland Metroparks and Geauga Park District are following strict protocol
to collect skin swabs from local amphibian species in pond, wetland, and stream. Environmental data including habitat type, water depth, and temperature, and animal data including length, sex, and breeding condition are collected at each site.
Mount Union College faculty and students are using a tool called quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) to analyze DNA from the skin swabs to determine the presence or absence of the fungus. After the appropriate permits were obtained, extensive sampling occurred from April through October in forested vernal pools, semi-permanent ponds and streams across the northeast Ohio region.
Frogs, toads, and mole salamanders (Ambystomatidae) at various stages of maturity comprise the majority of amphibians sampled from April to May. From mid-May through July, several sites were re-sampled, and several streams and riparian areas were sampled in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Cleveland Metroparks. Lungless salamanders (Plethodontidae) dominated these habitats. Of special interest was a longtail salamander (Eurycea longicauda) sampled at a site in Medina County.
The analysis of samples has just started, and results will be posted when available.