Environmental Data Associated With Sites Infected With White-Nose Syndrome (WNS) Before October 2011 in North America

Open-File Report 2020-1117
By:  and 



White-nose syndrome (WNS) is an emerging infectious disease of hibernating bats caused by a fungus previously known as Geomyces destructans and reclassified as Pseudogymnoascus destructans. The disease was first documented in 2006 in New York, has since spread across much of eastern North America, and as of January 2012, had caused the death of at least 5.7 to 6.7 million bats. Previous studies have suggested that environmental conditions play a strong role in WNS mortality. However, to predict where and when the disease will spread to new sites is difficult because detailed site information and associated environmental data are notably sparse. This paper presents a chronology of where and when WNS was detected in North America before October 2011 and indicates who reported the infections. This paper also presents available data on WNS-infected site elevation, geology, sediment chemistry and biota, air temperature, and relative humidity.

By the end of September 2011, at least 241 known WNS-infected sites were in North America and the number of infected sites per winter season had increased each year since 2006. The progressive increase in the number of infected sites per winter season suggests that the number of WNS infections had not peaked as of the 2010–11 winter season. WNS-infected sites include caves and mines, but the sites are not restricted by elevation, lithology, or strata age. Available data on site sediment chemistry are sparse but present a wide range of values, suggesting that caves and mines may contain a great range of microenvironments that are still poorly understood. The distribution of WNS may be restricted by air temperature and relative humidity. Published air temperature values from WNS-infected sites range from −15 to 33 degrees Celsius (but most temperature values are less than 20 degrees Celsius), and relative humidity values range from 50 to 100 percent. The spread of WNS may be restricted by a cave or mine temperature threshold of 20 degrees Celsius (which is likely to be south of most of the continental United States) and by some yet to be determined threshold of low relative humidity. These results indicate that WNS may not spread south into Mexico or to Puerto Rico.

Suggested Citation

Swezey, C.S., and Garrity, C.P., 2020, Environmental data associated with sites infected with white-nose syndrome (WNS) before October 2011 in North America: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2020–1117, 67 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/ofr20201117.

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

ISSN: 0196-1497 (print)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Results—Environmental Data from White-Nose Syndrome-Infected Sites
  • Discussion
  • Summary
  • Acknowledgments
  • References
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Environmental data associated with sites infected with white-nose syndrome (WNS) before October 2011 in North America
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2020-1117
DOI 10.3133/ofr20201117
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Florence Bascom Geoscience Center
Description x, 67 p.
Country Canada, United States
State Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachsetts, Missouri, New Brunswick, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Nova Scotia, Ohio, Oklahoma, Ontario, Pennsylvania, Quebec, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details