Are ‘good bacteria’ the key to protecting coral from bleaching or disease?

Image: ‘Good bacteria’ found in coral are keeping ‘bad bacteria’ in check in the Great Barrier Reef according to GCI researcher Dr Olga Pantos.


It’s an age old story of good versus evil; but this time the war is at a microscopic scale, and the battle ground is the world’s largest living organism, the Great Barrier Reef.


According to Global Change Institute (GCI) researcher Dr Olga Pantos, the 'good bacteria’ found in coral have been keeping the ‘bad bacteria’ in check on the Great Barrier Reef.


"Increasingly ‘good bacteria’ are being recognised as the cornerstone to human health and immunity, and now we can start to draw the same conclusions for coral health," Dr Pantos said.


She has found that the higher the presence of ‘good bacteria’ in corals, the lower the presence of potentially 'bad bacteria', which may be involved in bleaching and mortality.


"The presence of ‘good bacteria’ means members of the coral population may be more resistant to environmental stress such as thermal bleaching events or disease outbreaks. As a result we may be able to predict which coral populations are at greater risk from stress."


Little was known about the factors that influence bacterial growth in coral however Dr Pantos also found that the geographic location and depth habitat of the coral largely determines the type of bacteria present. 


Her research potentially has implications for long-term coral health and survival and she is currently conducting further large-scale investigations.


Dr Pantos’ work is part of the Catlin Seaview Survey and is published here