Seaweed, Environmental Changes and Disease
The frequency and severity of diseases have recently increased in some marine ecosystems, and this has been attributed to local and large-scale environmental stressors. The consequences of diseases can be particularly severe when they affect key habitat-forming organisms such as corals and large seaweeds, as this can have cascading repercussions for the ecosystem. We are investigating potential diseases affecting two dominant, large habitat-forming seaweeds that underpin local biodiversity, including economically important species such as lobster and abalone: the ‘crayweed’ Phyllospora comosa and the common kelp Ecklonia radiata.
In particular, crayweed is endemic to southeastern Australia, but in the early 1980’s it disappeared from ~70 Km of Sydney’s coastline. We have discovered a microbial disease affecting crayweed that has significant consequences for infected individuals and may have contributed to its decline in Sydney. At SIMS, we are doing experiments to investigate what environmental conditions increase the chance of infection of these important habitat-forming seaweeds.
Research Project – Tamsin Peters, UNSW