Coral reefs are known the world over for being a site of natural beauty, diversity and ecological importance (Efrony et al,. 2009). It has been estimated that coral reefs contain 1-3 million different species. This is an amazing feet as coral reefs themselves only cover 284,300 km2 which is a fragment of the world’s oceans, 0.089% to be precise. Coral reefs are not just important ecologically but economically as well. Many communities, both in the Caribbean and indo-pacific, rely on resources provided by the reef as well as the tourism the reef generates. It has been recently calculated that in the Philippines, which has around 27,00km2 of coral reef, tourism produces an annual net revenue of US$ 1.35 billion a year (White et al,. 2000). Coral reefs however are fragile systems and due to recent sea temperature rises, sea acidification and the increase in coral reef diseases the reefs health all around the world are reducing.
Unfortunately in recent decades coral reefs have experienced significant changes in structure leading to deterioration in the dynamics of these marines communities. (Hayes et al,. 2001, Gardner et al,. 2003). In recent years scientists have grown more concern over the rise in disease on coral reef organisms and the negative effect they are having on the dynamics of the reef (Weil et al,. 2006). The mesoamerican reef has seen the fastest emergence and highest virulence in coral reef diseases/syndromes, with the Caribbean reef being referred to as a ‘disease hot spot’. Frequent epizootic events are occurring causing significant coral mortalities. These events are widely distributed throughout the reef and occurring on many different organisms (Green & Bruckner, 2000). At the present, studies have concluded that in the Caribbean the disease of coral reef organisms is the major driving factor in the decline of the reef system (Weil, 2004). In the Indo-pacific reef system far fewer diseases/syndromes have been reported however there is evidence to suggesting the number is on the rise (Rosenberg & Loya 2004). Although many diseases/syndromes have been recorded, due to the complex interactions between the causative agents, the host and the environment (Martin et al., 1987), many causative agents have still not been identified. This blog will tell you about some of the major coral reef diseases and the effects they are having on the ecosystem.