DAO 100:249-261 (2012)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02488

Global coral disease prevalence associated with sea temperature anomalies and local factors

Diego Ruiz-Moreno1,*, Bette L. Willis2, A. Cathie Page2, Ernesto Weil3, Aldo Cróquer4, Bernardo Vargas-Angel5, Adán Guillermo Jordan-Garza6, Eric Jordán-Dahlgren6, Laurie Raymundo7, C. Drew Harvell1

1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA
2ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, and School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
3Department of Marine Sciences, University of Puerto Rico, PO Box 9000, Mayaguez 00681, Puerto Rico
4Departamento de Estudios Ambientales, Universidad Simón Bolívar, Apartado 89000, Caracas 1080-A, Venezuela
5Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, University of Hawaii, 1000 Pope Road, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822, USA
6Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Apartado Postal 1152, 77500 Cancún, Quintana Roo, México
7University of Guam Marine Laboratory, UOG Station, Mangilao, Guam 96923, USA

ABSTRACT: Coral diseases are taking an increasing toll on coral reef structure and biodiversity and are important indicators of declining health in the oceans. We implemented standardized coral disease surveys to pinpoint hotspots of coral disease, reveal vulnerable coral families and test hypotheses about climate drivers from 39 locations worldwide. We analyzed a 3 yr study of coral disease prevalence to identify links between disease and a range of covariates, including thermal anomalies (from satellite data), location and coral cover, using a Generalized Linear Mixed Model. Prevalence of unhealthy corals, i.e. those with signs of known diseases or with other signs of compromised health, exceeded 10% on many reefs and ranged to over 50% on some. Disease prevalence exceeded 10% on 20% of Caribbean reefs and 2.7% of Pacific reefs surveyed. Within the same coral families across oceans, prevalence of unhealthy colonies was higher and some diseases were more common at sites in the Caribbean than those in the Pacific. The effects of high disease prevalence are potentially extensive given that the most affected coral families, the acroporids, faviids and siderastreids, are among the major reef-builders at these sites. The poritids and agaricids stood out in the Caribbean as being the most resistant to disease, even though these families were abundant in our surveys. Regional warm temperature anomalies were strongly correlated with high disease prevalence. The levels of disease reported here will provide a much-needed local reference point against which to compare future change.


KEY WORDS: Coral health · Reef-building coral families · Caribbean Sea · Pacific Ocean · Generalized Linear Mixed Model · Infectious diseases · Coral disease prevalence


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Cite this article as: Ruiz-Moreno D, Willis BL, Page AC, Weil E and others (2012) Global coral disease prevalence associated with sea temperature anomalies and local factors. Dis Aquat Org 100:249-261. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02488

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