The Coral Disease Working Group has addressed many pressing issues. These include identifying several disease syndromes which are infectious; measuring baseline levels of many disease worldwide at each of the Centres of Excellence; identifying which Centres of Excellence are the most suitable for identifying local factors that might drive disease; and investigating whether climate factors affects coral disease levels.
Impact of fish farms
As part of its study of the impact of local environmental factors on coral health, the Group has found that the fish pens in Bolinao Bay (Philippines) have a strong influence on the bacteria population, nutrient input, primary production and the patterns of energy and carbon flux in the surrounding waters. Researchers are working to identity specific bacteria from fish farms that reside on the surface of reef corals, and whether aquaculture plays a role as an incubator, conveyor and facilitator of disease into natural populations.
Disease in a warming ocean
The Group has made significant discoveries in the Caribbean and Australia regarding the potential impacts of heat stress, associated with climate warming events, on the outbreak of coral disease. In collaboration with the CRTR Remote Sensing Working Group, it is developing new models to predict disease outbreaks using satellite monitoring data. The models use predicted sea temperature data and can identify the potential efficacy of various management strategies for future scenarios.
Other causes of coral disease
The Group continues to survey the prevalence of coral disease in Caribbean, Yucatan and Australian coral reefs, and is making progress in determining agents that cause coral diseases such as skeletal eroding band, brown band and white syndrome.