Potential for spread of the white-nose fungus (Pseudogymnoascus destructans) in the Americas: use of Maxent and NicheA to assure strict model transference

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Luis E. Escobar *
Andrés Lira-Noriega
Gonzalo Medina-Vogel
A. Townsend Peterson
(*) Corresponding Author:
Luis E. Escobar | ecoguate2003@gmail.com

Abstract

Emerging infectious diseases can present serious threats to wildlife, even to the point of causing extinction. White- nose fungus (Pseudogymnoascus destructans) is causing an epizootic in bats that is expanding rapidly, both geographically and taxonomically. Little is known of the ecology and distributional potential of this intercontinental pathogen. We address this gap via ecological niche models that characterise coarse resolution niche differences between fungus populations on dif- ferent continents, identifying areas potentially vulnerable to infection in South America. Here we explore a novel approach to identifying areas of potential distribution across novel geographic regions that avoids perilious extrapolation into novel environments. European and North American fungus populations show differential use of environmental space, but rather than niche differentiation, we find that changes are best attributed to climatic differences between the two continents. Suitable areas for spread of the pathogen were identified across southern South America; however caution should be taken to avoid underestimating the potential for spread of this pathogen in South America.

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