PS 15-5 - Climate and the dynamics of coral infectious disease

Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Exhibit Hall 3, Austin Convention Center
Susanne H. Sokolow, Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford University, Pacific Grove, CA
Background/Question/Methods: It has been suggested that ongoing climate change may lead to increasing impacts of infectious disease both on land and in the oceans.  The mechanisms by which climate may affect infectious disease dynamics remain uncertain, but it is hypothesized for marine organisms that warming oceans may both increase pathogen growth rates and hamper host defenses against disease. Here, I build on previous work which modeled the epidemiological dynamics of the coral disease white plague type II in coral of the upper Florida Keys from 1995 to 2005.  I now incorporate historical temperature data for the region to explain variation in the data not captured by epidemiological dynamics alone.

Results/Conclusions: Results suggest the strongest fit of the data when both epidemiological dynamics and climate variables are considered, offering supporting evidence for the role of climate change in coral disease emergence, but also highlighting the importance of a combined epidemiological and ecological research approach.  Attempts to predict and mitigate the effects of climate change in the oceans may benefit from application of this combined approach to assessing population survival and resilience in the face of increasing disease pressure and changing global conditions. 

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