Projections of climate conditions that increase coral disease susceptibility and pathogen abundance and virulence

Last modified: 
August 30, 2016 - 8:10am
Type: Journal Article
Year of publication: 2015
Date published: 05/2015
Authors: Jeffrey Maynard, Ruben van Hooidonk, Mark Eakin, Marjetta Puotinen, Melissa Garren, Gareth Williams, Scott Heron, Joleah Lamb, Ernesto Weil, Bette Willis, Drew Harvell
Journal title: Nature Climate Change
ISSN: 1758-678X

Rising sea temperatures are likely to increase the frequency of disease outbreaks affecting reef-building corals through impacts on coral hosts and pathogens. We present and compare climate model projections of temperature conditions that will increase coral susceptibility to disease, pathogen abundance and pathogen virulence. Both moderate (RCP 4.5) and fossil fuel aggressive (RCP 8.5) emissions scenarios are examined. We also compare projections for the onset of disease-conducive conditions and severe annual coral bleaching, and produce a disease risk summary that combines climate stress with stress caused by local human activities. There is great spatial variation in the projections, both among and within the major ocean basins, in conditions favouring disease development. Our results indicate that disease is as likely to cause coral mortality as bleaching in the coming decades. These projections identify priority locations to reduce stress caused by local human activities and test management interventions to reduce disease impacts.

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