DAO 63:3-12 (2005)  -  doi:10.3354/dao063003

Diseases and partial mortality in Montastraea annularis species complex in reefs with differing environmental conditions (NW Caribbean and Gulf of México)

Eric Jordán-Dahlgren*, Miguel Angel Maldonado, Rosa Elisa Rodríguez-Martínez

Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM), Apartado Postal 1152, 77500 Cancún, Quintana Roo, Mexico

ABSTRACT: We documented the prevalence of diseases, syndromes and partial mortality in colonies of the Montastraea annularis species complex on 3 reefs, and tested the assumption that a higher prevalence of these parameters occurs when reefs are closer to point-sources of pollution. One reef was isolated from the impact of local factors with the exception of fishing, 1 potentially influenced by local industrial pollutants, and 1 influenced by local urban pollution. Two reefs were surveyed in 1996 and again in 2001 and 1 in 1998 and again in 2001. In 2001, colonies on all reefs had a high prevalence of the yellow-band syndrome and a relatively high degree of recent partial mortality, while the prevalence of black-band and white-plague diseases was low; although a new sign, that we named thin dark-line, had relatively high prevalence in all reefs. As no direct relationship was found between disease prevalence and local environmental quality, our results open the possibility that regional and/or global factors may already be playing an important role in the prevalence of coral disease in the Caribbean, and contradict the theory that coral disease prevalence is primarily related to local environmental degradation. Reasons that may partially explain these findings are the high level of potential pathogen connectivity within the Caribbean as a result of its circulation patterns coupled to the large land-derived pollutants and pathogens input into this Mediterranean sea; together with the surface water warming effects which stress corals and enhance pathogen activity.

KEY WORDS: Coral · Disease · Prevalence · Mortality · Local impacts · Regional impacts

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