The researchers are conducting the largest-ever international assessment of ocean disease, called the Coral Reef Targeted Research and Capacity Building project and supported by the Global Environment Fund and the World Bank. With funding of about $28.8 million for the first five years of an anticipated 15-year project, the assessment aims "to fill critically important information gaps in the fundamental understanding of coral reef ecosystems so that management and policy interventions can be strengthened globally," according to C. Drew Harvell, a Cornell University professor of ecology and one leader of the coral reef assessment.
Harvell observes that the World Bank and Global Environmental Fund are focusing on coral reefs because of the organisms' highly threatened condition worldwide and because of their importance to the economy of developing countries. "We hope the new information will guide management policy on marine organisms of all kinds. But first we have to learn what's killing the corals," she says.
Two recently published papers in the journals Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment and Trends in Ecology and Evolution sum up marine science's current understanding of ocean-based diseases. Both papers result from a Working Group on Marine Disease chaired by Harvell and funded by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis.
In the Frontiers paper ("The rising tide of ocean diseases," Vol. 2, No. 7, by Harvell and 16 other researchers at Cornell and affiliated institutions), the researchers say that fast-moving water-borne epidemics can leave the terrestrial kind in the dust. A 1999-2000 herpes epidemic in sardi
Contact: Roger Segelken
Cornell University News Service