Matthew Fisher by Webmaster Public Symposium Fungal Catastrophes 2020-03-04 08:25:09

Costing the Earth: Catastrophic losses of amphibian biodiversity caused by chytrid fungi
By Matthew Fisher, professor of Fungal Disease Epidemiology at St Mary's Hospital, Imperial College London

‘In the Eastern United States there is more than double the biomass of salamanders than there is of white-tailed deer’ Matthew Fisher states. This really means something since the white-tailed deer is the most wide-spread of North America’s large mammals.
Fisher gives this information to underpin the severity of a world-wide threat to amphibians: fungal infections. Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis is the culprit causing chytridiomycosis in amphibians. In some amphibian populations the mortality caused by this fungus is 100 percent.

Matthew Fisher works on emerging pathogenic fungi. He is interested both in the role of wildlife and their environments in causing disease in humans (zoonotic pool) and the other way around, in the spreading of pathogenes (mainly pathogenic fungi) in ecosystems by human action. These are two sides of the same coin. Perturbation of natural systems by humans is the main cause of both zoonotic diseases in humans and animal deaths by the spread of pathogenic microbes like fungi.

‘The impact of the death of masses of amphibians is huge: tadpoles are like little sheep in the water, grazers, they eat algae and they recycle plant matter but they also provide food for a lot of aquatic organisms. When they emerge from the water they become predators themselves, they eat a lot of insects and they are food in their own right for species such as snakes. Therefore, losses of amphibians have ecosystem-wide impacts’

In his talk at the public evening ‘Fungal Catastrophes’ Fisher will address the scale of amphibian loss due to fungi, the impact on the ecosystem of this loss and the cause and possible measures that have to be taken: ¬†‘There is a Pandora's box of chytridiomycosis-causing fungi out there in different parts of the world. What we must not do is allow this box to be opened and for these hyper-virulent aggressive fungi to be allowed to spread any more than they have already.’