Like any other living organisms, algae are plagued by diseases caused by fungi, protists, bacteria or viruses. As aquaculture continues to rise worldwide, pathogens of nori or biofuel sources are becoming a significant economic burden. Parasites are also increasingly being considered of equal importance with predators for ecosystem functioning. Altered disease patterns in disturbed environments are blamed for sudden extinctions, regime shifts, and spreading of alien species. Here we review the biodiversity and impact of pathogens and parasites of aquatic primary producers in freshwater and marine systems. We also cover recent advances on algal defence reactions, and discuss how emerging technologies can be used to reassess the profound, multi-faceted, and so far broadly-overlooked influence of algal diseases on ecosystem properties. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.
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