Marine biologist Paul Sikkel at Arkansas State University says parasites play an important role in coral reef ecosystems. "About 80 percent of the animals that live on coral reefs are parasites," he says. "Even the parasites have parasites that live on them. So, parasites account for the vast majority of biodiversity on coral reefs." Find out more in this video.
In just a few decades, some 80 percent of Caribbean corals have disappeared. A comprehensive 3-year study from researchers at Oregon State University, Florida International University and University of Florida looked at the impact of "nutrient loading"--the introduction of specific pollutants common in sewage and fertilizer runoff. Hear more in this Discovery Files podcast.
Credit: NSF/Karson Productions
The Division of Ocean Sciences (OCE) in NSF's Directorate for Geosciences supports research, infrastructure and education to advance understanding of all aspects of the global oceans and ocean basins, including their interactions with people and the integrated Earth system. These activities provide knowledge critical to addressing many of the nation's most pressing challenges involving Earth processes.
When is insult added to injury for a Caribbean coral reef? When overfishing removes predatory fish that feed on sponges, according to results reported by marine scientist Joseph Pawlik of the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) and
June 9, 2014
Even healthy corals have viruses
Researchers say role of viruses could reveal more about reef decline
Corals are important ecosystem engineers, providing habitat and nutrient recycling to tropical reefs. However, coral species' richness and abundance are in decline worldwide, due in large part to the impacts from global industrialization and human population growth.
Coral disease is a major contributor to this decline of tropical reefs, and therefore, investigations into the causes of and remedies to these diseases are of critical importance.
With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), microbiologist Rebecca Vega-Thurber and her team at Oregon State University collect coral samples during diving expeditions and analyze the DNA in order to learn more about the role of viruses in the biology of coral.
Some viruses are present even in healthy coral, similar to the way chicken pox or herpes viruses are present in healthy humans. The team is also studying what is known as "white plague," which can cause the destruction of large reefs very quickly.
The research in this episode was supported by NSF award #1242064, Effects of Viruses on Coral Fitness, under the Biological Oceanography program.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.