Research provides insights into marine disease and climate

Drew Harvell photographing coral disease at a remote Pacific atoll in Palmyra, where scientists gathered to form a Pacific Coral Disease Network.

Drew Harvell photographing coral disease at a remote Pacific atoll in Palmyra, where scientists gathered to form a Pacific Coral Disease Network. B. Willis photo.

Climate changes have increased the occurrence of infectious diseases in some natural and agricultural systems, and developing predictive early-warning systems will be crucial to combat their spread. A review article in the Aug. 2 issue of Science presents the current state of the science and forecasting recommendations.

In the paper, Drew Harvell, Cornell professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, offered evidence of marine infectious diseases in coral, abalone and oysters, for example, and cases of forecasting and mitigation for those diseases.

In gorgonian corals, also known as sea fans, warmer temperatures increase defenses, but also lead to faster replication for coral pathogens and changes in associated bacteria. The sea fan system has become a model system for Harvell’s work to link changes in coral immunity to climate events. Disease outbreaks have coincided with warmer sea temperatures in the Caribbean, and warming has led to the emergence of new pathogens that have greatly reduced coral populations and led to ecosystem-wide repercussions, according to the paper.

[Cornell Chronicle 2013-08-02] Read the whole article.



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