Osha Gray Davidson
osha at oshadavidson.com
Thu Nov 1 13:59:26 EST 2001
Now that Jim Hendee has posted the entire "Doomed?" thread (thanks Monika
Gurnee!), I had a chance to read it through as whole, rather than day by
day, as it came. One thing that struck me was, amid the variety of reef
problems mentioned, the absence of "disease" as an issue. This seems a
particularly egregious omission given a number of factors. (I know some
will argue that disease is a response to other problems, and in some cases
that's no doubt true, but the links in other cases are not understood and
coral diseases as an issue really should be included in any discussion of
the fate of reefs.)
White Band Disease (WBD) was the main cause of the mass mortality of
Acropora, previously the primary reef-building corals of the Caribbean.
(Aronson and Precht, "Evolutionary paleocology of Caribbean coral reefs,"
in Evolutionary Paleoecology, Allmon and Bottjer, eds., 2001.)
Then there's the mass mortality of sea fans caused by the bacterium
Aspergillus sp. reported by Smith, Harvel and Kim (sorry, I don't have the
complete cite handy).
Disease also plays a role in coral decline even when the diseases aren't
attacking corals per se. The Diadema die-off in the early 1980s (killing
95% of D. antillarum in the western Caribbean) likely contributed to algal
overgrowth in many areas (H. Lessios, 1988), since that sea urchin was a
major herbivore throughout the area. That epizootic was likely a case of
"pathogen pollution," in which pathogens are transported (in this case in
bilge water from a ship coming through the Panama canal) by humans. For
more on pathogen pollution see Peter Daszak, et al. in Science, 21 January
2000, pp. 443-49.
And on that note, I'll climb down from my "disease" soapbox.
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