Coral Disease Outbreaks Linked to Winter Temperatures, Not Just Warm Summers
September 16, 2010
For the first time, scientists have linked mild water temperatures during the preceding winter period with outbreaks of coral diseases on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. By studying satellite measurements of unusual sea surface temperatures, the international team of scientists also examined the magnitude of stress upon corals from unusually warm temperatures, particularly in summer, and confirmed a strong relationship with coral disease outbreaks.
The study, a collaboration between scientists from NOAA, the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University and the Australian Institute of Marine Science, was published Aug. 17 in PLoS ONE, an international, peer-reviewed, open-access, online publication.
"Previous studies examined the relationship between warm conditions throughout the year and the likelihood of disease," said Scott Heron, Ph.D., physical scientist with NOAA's Coral Reef Watch. "We considered the influence of summer and winter separately, taking into account both cold and warm stress, to find that winter temperatures are just as important as summer stress in determining the susceptibility of corals to disease outbreaks."
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