MEPS 294:173-180 (2005)  -  doi:10.3354/meps294173

Pathologies and mortality rates caused by organic carbon and nutrient stressors in three Caribbean coral species

Neilan M. Kuntz1,3, David I. Kline1,2,3, Stuart A. Sandin2, Forest Rohwer1,4,*

1Department of Biology, LS301, San Diego State University, 5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego, California 92182, USA
2Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093, USA
3Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Apartado 2072, Balboa, Republic of Panama
4Center for Microbial Sciences, San Diego State University, San Diego, California 92182, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Anthropogenic inputs, including organic carbon and nutrient loading, are increasingly changing the water quality on coral reefs. Herein we show that treating Montastraea annularis, Agaricia tenuifolia and Porites furcata with various organic carbon sources (starch, lactose, arabinose and mannose) results in different species-specific and carbon-specific pathologies and rates of mortality. The variation in the pathological characteristics caused by stressors showed that visual cues for determining coral health and disease may be misleading. The probability of mortality increased significantly over time with continual exposure to several of the stressors, suggesting that chronic stressors may be more harmful than acute stressors. In contrast to the organic carbon sources, high concentrations of nutrients (phosphate, ammonium and nitrate) did not directly kill corals. The variation in coral responses to anthropogenic stressors means that changes on disturbed coral reefs will depend on the type of and duration of exposure to the stressor, as well as on the species of coral.


KEY WORDS: Coral · Disease · Symptoms · Chronic stress · Ecotoxicology


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