Coral Disease and Global Climate Change
The health of the world’s coral reefs have steadily declined over the past two decades. The primary diver of this decline is as an increase in shallow ocean temperatures. Increased temperatures stress the normal metabolism of corals and change the normal microbiota associated with healthy colonies. Often the result is the development of diseased colonies. We tested the susceptibility of the scleractinian coral Montastrea faveolata to infection by a number of Vibrio spp. which were previously isolated from diseased corals at in situtemperatures (28°C) and increased temperatures (31°C) in temperature controlled seawater aquaria. Both inoculated and control corals in aquaria kept at in situtemperatures showed no disease signs after two weeks. Inoculated corals in aquaria kept at increased temperatures developed disease signs after three days, although control corals at increased temperatures remained disease free. We suggest that the inoculated, increased temperature corals developed disease signs due to (1) decreased resistance under increased temperatures, (2) increased growth rates of the pathogens, (3) initiation of the transcription of toxin genes, or (4) a combination of the first three. We suggest that the increase of global coral disease is due, in part, to increased global temperatures.
KeywordsCoral Reef Yucatan Peninsula Coral Fragment Coral Disease Control Coral
This work was supported by a grant from the World Bank Targeted Research Program through the Global Environmental Fund to the Coral Disease Working Group. Photographs were taken by Dr. Jessica Ward, SIO, San Diego, CA.
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