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

Nature Climate Change volume 5, pages 688694 (2015) | Download Citation

Abstract

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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Acknowledgements

This study was primarily funded by a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Program Office prepared by S.F.H. and awarded to C.D.H. and C.M.E. (NA13OAR4310127). Support was also provided by a National Science Foundation Research Coordination Network grant to C.D.H., in-kind support from NOAA Atlantic and Oceanographic Meteorological Laboratory, as well as grants from the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program, the US National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Pacific Islands Climate Change Cooperative, the European Research Commission, and The Nature Conservancy. Use of data from ref. 28 benefited from discussions with L. Burke and K. Reytar. Figures were collaboratively developed with D. Tracey. The contents in this manuscript are solely the opinions of the authors and do not constitute a statement of policy, decision or position on behalf of the NOAA or the US Government.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14850, USA

    • Jeffrey Maynard
    • , Joleah Lamb
    •  & C. Drew Harvell
  2. CRIOBE—USR 3278, CNRS—EPHE—UPVD, Laboratoire d’Excellence “CORAIL”, 58 Av. Paul Alduy - 66860 Perpignan cedex, France

    • Jeffrey Maynard
  3. NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, 4301 Rickenbacker Causeway Miami, Florida 33149, USA

    • Ruben van Hooidonk
  4. Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway Miami, Florida 33149, USA

    • Ruben van Hooidonk
  5. NOAA Coral Reef Watch, NESDIS Center for Satellite Applications and Research, 5830 University Research Ct., E/RA3, College Park, Maryland 20740, USA

    • C. Mark Eakin
    •  & Scott F. Heron
  6. Australian Institute of Marine Science, 35 Stirling Hwy Crawley 6009, Western Australia, Australia

    • Marjetta Puotinen
  7. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 15 Vassar St. Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA

    • Melissa Garren
  8. Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California 92037, USA

    • Gareth Williams
  9. Marine Geophysical Laboratory, Physics Department, College of Science, Technology and Engineering, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia

    • Scott F. Heron
  10. Department of Marine Sciences, University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Puerto Rico 00680, USA

    • Ernesto Weil
  11. Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, and College of Marine and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia

    • Bette Willis

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Contributions

J.M., C.D.H., C.M.E., S.F.H., R.v.H., B.W., M.G., J.L. and G.W. designed the study. R.v.H. compiled and analysed the climate model data in collaboration with J.M. M.P. conducted the spatial analysis required to build the maps on which Figs 3 and 4 and Supplementary Figs 1 and 2 are based, in collaboration with J.M. J.M., C.D.H., C.M.E. and B.W. wrote the manuscript with assistance from all other authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jeffrey Maynard.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2625

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