Disease

The risk of a deadly disease is ever-present among wild populations, domesticated animals and even humans. It is a powerful ecological force, scientists say, often underestimated and under-researched.

Mist from the breath of killer whales is collected at the end of a long pole then tested for dozens of different types of bacteria. Photo: Pete Schroeder

OVERVIEW

Going viral: Concerns rise over potential impacts of disease on the ecosystem

From orcas to starfish to humans, disease affects every living creature in the ecosystem. Scientists are increasingly alarmed by its potential to devastate already compromised populations of species in Puget Sound.

RELATED ARTICLES

Sunflower sea stars have all but disappeared from the Salish Sea due to sea star wasting disease. Photo courtesy of PLOS ONE
10/31/2016

Devastating transboundary impacts of sea star wasting disease on subtidal asteroids

A study in the journal PLOS ONE uses volunteer diver surveys to assess the impacts of sea star wasting disease in the Salish Sea. Data shows that sunflower sea stars were especially hard hit and have all but disappeared from the region. 

Toxic algal blooms are sometimes associated with invasive plankton. Photo: Eutrophication&Hypoxia (CC BY 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/48722974@N07/5120831456
10/4/2016

Salish Sea snapshots: Invasive species and human health

Invasive species are considered a top threat to the balance of ecosystems worldwide. New discoveries of non-native green crabs in Puget Sound have highlighted that concern here at home, but invasive species can impact more than just the food web. Some introduced species can produce toxins that accumulate in shellfish or by directly infecting the human body.

Puget Sound Marine Waters 2015 report cover
9/27/2016

Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview 2015

The Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program released its fifth annual Marine Waters Overview this week. The report provides an assessment of marine conditions for the year 2015 and includes updates on water quality as well as status reports for select plankton, seabirds, fish and marine mammals.

Pathogen-free herring are reared from eggs to allow a wide range of experiments on infectious organisms at the Marrowstone Marine Field Station. Photo: Christopher Dunagan
1/13/2016

Disease in herring threatens broader food web

Pacific herring have long been considered an essential part of the Puget Sound food web. Now, studies are beginning to reveal how diseases in herring could be reverberating through the ecosystem, affecting creatures large and small. We continue our coverage of the ecological impacts of disease in Puget Sound with this look at the region's most well-known forage fish.

Steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Photo: Eric Engbretson, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
1/13/2016

Are diseases playing a role in salmon decline?

Chinook, coho and steelhead populations in Puget Sound have declined dramatically over the past 30 years. In some cases, counts of fish returning to the rivers are just a tenth what they were in the 1980s. While many possible causes of this decline are under consideration, some researchers are focusing on the combined effects of predators and disease. This article continues our coverage of the ecological impacts of disease in Puget Sound.

Purple sea star. Photo by brewbooks. Creative commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).
12/3/2014

Virus associated with sea-star wasting disease

A virus is the likely cause of Sea star die-offs on the Northeast Pacific Coast and in Puget Sound, according to a November 2014 paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Kelp crab on eelgrass. Photo courtesy NOAA Photo Library
3/10/2014

Host demography influences the prevalence and severity of eelgrass wasting disease

A paper in the February 2014 journal Diseases of Aquatic Organisms examines the effect of leaf age on wasting disease in eelgrass across sites in the San Juan Archipelago. Co-author: Encyclopedia of Puget Sound topic editor Joe Gaydos.