DAO 113:59-68 (2015)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02828

Disease dynamics of Porites bleaching with tissue loss: prevalence, virulence, transmission, and environmental drivers

M. Sudek1,4, G. J. Williams2, C. Runyon3, G. S. Aeby3, S. K. Davy1,* 

1School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140, New Zealand
2Center for Marine Biodiversity & Conservation, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California 92083, USA
3Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, University of Hawaii, PO Box 1346, Kaneohe, Hawaii 96744, USA
4Present address: Division of Marine and Wildlife Resources, PO Box 3730, Pago Pago 96799, American Samoa
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The prevalence, number of species affected, and geographical extent of coral diseases have been increasing worldwide. We present ecological data on the coral disease Porites bleaching with tissue loss (PBTL) from Kaneohe Bay, Oahu (Hawaii, USA), affecting P. compressa. This disease is prevalent throughout the year, although it shows spatio-temporal variability with peak prevalence during the warmer summer months. Temporal variability in disease prevalence showed a strong positive relationship with elevated water temperature. Spatially, PBTL prevalence peaked in clearer waters (lower turbidity) with higher water flow and higher densities of parrotfish, together explaining approximately 26% of the spatial variability in PBTL prevalence. However, the relatively poor performance of the spatial model suggests that other, unmeasured factors may be more important in driving spatial prevalence. PBTL was not transmissible through direct contact or the water column in controlled aquaria experiments, suggesting that this disease may not be caused by a pathogen, is not highly infectious, or perhaps requires a vector for transmission. In general, PBTL results in partial tissue mortality of affected colonies; on average, one-third of the tissue is lost. This disease can affect the same colonies repeatedly, suggesting a potential for progressive damage which could cause increased tissue loss over time. P. compressa is the main framework-building species in Kaneohe Bay; PBTL therefore has the potential to negatively impact the structure of the reefs at this location.


KEY WORDS: Porites compressa · Tissue mortality · Branching coral · Framework species · Coral reef ecology · Etiology · Coral disease · Water temperature


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Cite this article as: Sudek M, Williams GJ, Runyon C, Aeby GS, Davy SK (2015) Disease dynamics of Porites bleaching with tissue loss: prevalence, virulence, transmission, and environmental drivers. Dis Aquat Org 113:59-68. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02828

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