Climate-driven windblown dust and flood runoff can increase marine diseases by fungal pathogens

  • Research Theme
    Ecology & Biodiversity
  • Cross-disciplinary Theme(s)
    Climate Change
  • Funded By

    Australian Research Council

  • Principal Investigator
  • Contributor(s)

    A.Prof Alastair Richardson (School of Zoology, University of Tasmania)

  • Project Summary

    A massive central Australian dust storm in Sept 2009 was associated with abundant fungal spores and hyphae (branching filamentous structure of the fungus) in coastal waters between Brisbane and Sydney. Some of these spores were germinated from formalin-preserved samples and using molecular sequencing of three different genes identified as Aspergillus sydowii, an organism associated with Gorgonian coral fan disease in the Caribbean. Australian fungal cultures were non-toxic to fish gills, but had the greatest impacts on Symbiodinium motility, a dinoflagellate that lives in symbiosis with corals. The effect of hype was more detrimental than that of spores. While we have not yet seen any soft coral disease outbreaks on the Australian Great Barrier Reef similar to that in the Caribbean, from our observations it is possible that marine ecosystem can be impacted from similar dust storms harbouring more pathogenic strains.

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Authorised by the Executive Director, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies
1 October, 2019