Recently published research suggests that environmental stress, and climate change in particular, is the most likely cause of the increase in coral disease in the Caribbean:
Florida Institute of Technology biologist Robert van Woesik and his former student Erinn Muller — now a researcher at the Mote Marine Lab in Sarasota, Fla. — used a mapping technique to examine disease clustering and determine what might have caused the recent increase of coral diseases in the Caribbean.
According to Muller, “When diseases cluster they are usually contagious and are spreading rapidly. When they don’t cluster, environmental stress is usually the cause.”
Muller and van Woesik mapped the clustering of three coral diseases in the Caribbean and concluded that they are stress-related rather than contagious. “These coral diseases in the Caribbean are likely caused by stress,” said van Woesik, “and that stress is the warming seas that are the result of climate change.” The researchers suspect the corals’ immune systems are compromised by increasing water temperatures, making them more susceptible to infection.
Read more at ScienceDaily.
[Photo: Sean Nash.]