Numerous factors are contributing to the loss of biodiversity. These include complex effects of multiple abiotic and biotic stressors that may drive population losses. These losses are especially illustrated by amphibians, whose populations are declining worldwide. The causes of amphibian population declines are multifaceted and context-dependent. One major factor affecting amphibian populations is emerging infectious disease. Several pathogens and their associated diseases are especially significant contributors to amphibian population declines. These include the fungi Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis
and B. salamandrivorans
, and ranaviruses. In this review, we assess the effects of these three pathogens on amphibian hosts as found through experimental studies. Such studies offer valuable insights to the causal factors underpinning broad patterns reported through observational studies. We summarize key findings from experimental studies in the laboratory, in mesocosms, and from the field. We also summarize experiments that explore the interactive effects of these pathogens with other contributors of amphibian population declines. Though well-designed experimental studies are critical for understanding the impacts of disease, inconsistencies in experimental methodologies limit our ability to form comparisons and conclusions. Studies of the three pathogens we focus on show that host susceptibility varies with such factors as species, host age, life history stage, population and biotic (e.g., presence of competitors, predators) and abiotic conditions (e.g., temperature, presence of contaminants), as well as the strain and dose of the pathogen, to which hosts are exposed. Our findings suggest the importance of implementing standard protocols and reporting for experimental studies of amphibian disease.
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