Dr. David Bourne works with Earthwatch volunteers to study the health of corals in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
Why the Great Barrier Reef?
Coral reefs around the world are under increasing threat from direct human activity and global climate shifts, which together are contributing to accelerating rates of reef deterioration. In Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is fundamental to our nation’s economy and a national icon that needs to be preserved to ensure ongoing sustainability of our marine resources. Warming seawater temperatures, ocean acidification, and increased freshwater inputs carrying pollutants onto these reefs all disrupt the sensitive symbiotic associations that determine the health of corals, the major group of organisms that build the structural framework of coral reefs. Understanding how these environmental stressors cause declining coral health, leading to disease, is critical for preventing the loss of coral reefs and an important step toward preserving them for future generations.
Why black band disease?
“Black band disease is one of the most frequently reported diseases in tropical reefs,” says Dr. Bourne. “One major cause is the seasonally high water temperature. Thus, results from this study allow us to understand at the micro-scale how the environmental conditions and the complex microbial community interact to result in the onset and progression of this coral disease.”