Disease is a natural part of ecosystem health. All organisms become sick, this includes corals. When the frequency of occurrence of certain disease states in populations increases this is when we become concerned. In order for a coral colony to become a compromised host, the environment must be conducive to suppress the hosts immunity, as well as to perpetuate a pathogen which the host is susceptible to. Poor water quality is commonly associated to the decline in coral health. Stoney corals grow very slow and thrive in clean, clear, warm water: freshwater input, sedimentation, and nutrient loading lead to coral health issues.
Coral disease can be caused by biotic and abiotic factors, and disease states can range from gross lesions to the formation of tumors, to a reduction in fecundity or complete mortality of a coral colony . Some of the forums introduced in the up coming blogs will be related to following disease states in the field and to looking into treatments as well as laboratory findings linking pathogenesis to disease states.
We also will address the outreach and education component of coral reef health that allows for community members to be active observers of their reefs. Eyes of the Reef Program (EOR) is a community reporting program which allows for ocean users to act as primary responders to events that may lead to a change in reef ecosystem health. Training through EOR empowers the public to identify the 5 major threats to coral reef ecosystem health.
We hope to engage all readers and provide information to the public pertaining to coral reef ecosystem health. Some of the work highlighted in later blogs will include work from Hawaii (NWHI and MHI), Palmyra Atoll, and American Samoa.