Coral Health and Disease Assessment in the U.S. Pacific Remote Island Areas
Abstract:During 2006 and 2007, the first comprehensive, quantitative coral disease assessment was conducted at seven coral islands and atolls in the central Pacific: Johnston, Palmyra, Kingman, and Wake Atolls, and Howland, Baker, and Jarvis Islands. Collectively, they are referred to as Pacific Remote Island Areas (PRIA), spanning over 4000 km and nearly 20° latitude. Distribution and prevalence of disease were determined from 25-m belt transects at 80 sites, covering an area of over 22,000 m2 of reef habitat. Six broad disease categories were recognized affecting 12 different scleractinian genera; prevalence was computed based on the estimated total number of coral colonies per survey site. The most geographically and taxonomically widespread disease was skeletal growth anomalies detected at nearly 40% of sites and on six different anthozoan genera. In contrast, the most prevalent disease was acute tissue loss (or white syndrome) which was hosted by four scleractinian genera, including Acropora, Montipora, Goniastrea, and Platygyra. Pigmentation response and other sublethal lesions, such as algal and cyanophyte infections, and tube-worm infestations, were infrequent and occurred in low prevalences. The overall abundance of coral diseases in the U.S. PRIA was low; however, patterns of prevalence varied among coral genera and indicated a few taxa were disproportionately affected by disease, namely the Acroporidae and Poritidae. Of potential concern is white syndrome, which results in severe and rapid tissue loss, particularly on the tabular Acropora cytherea (Dana, 1846) at Johnston Atoll.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: March 1, 2009
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