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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 69:67-73 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/dao069067

Consequences of yellow band disease (YBD) on Montastraea annularis (species complex) populations on remote reefs off Mona Island, Puerto Rico

Andrew W. Bruckner*, Robin J. Bruckner

NOAA Fisheries, Office of Habitat Conservation, Coral Reef Conservation Program, 1315 East West Highway, Silver Spring, Maryland 20910, USA

ABSTRACT: The rate and extent of mortality from yellow band disease (YBD) to Montastraea annularis (species complex) on reefs off Mona Island, Puerto Rico, was evaluated over 8 yr. Isolated YBD infections were first observed in 1996. Prevalence of YBD increased dramatically in 1999, with a maximum of 52% of all M. annularis colonies infected in 1 shallow site. YBD continued to spread among adjacent, previously uninfected corals over the next 4 yr, and disease prevalence progressively increased in deeper sites. Linear rates of disease advance and tissue mortality have been slow (5 to 15 cm yr–1), although colonies with single YBD lesions have become infected in multiple locations. Most (85%) colonies identified with YBD in 1999 and 2000 were still affected in 2003, and these corals have lost a mean of 60% of their living tissue. Mortality from YBD is being compounded by black band disease, white plague and other syndromes; bioeroding sponges, macroalgae, cyanobacteria and other competitors have colonized tissue-denuded skeleton, minimizing the likelihood of resheeting. The deteriorating health of M. annularis is of particular concern, as these are the dominant corals on these reefs, the largest (2 to 3 m diameter and height) and presumably oldest colonies were infected with YBD more frequently than small colonies, and no recruitment has been observed. YBD is causing extensive mortality to key reef-building taxa in a remote location where anthropogenic stressors are minimal. Additional research on causes of YBD, mechanisms of infection, and strategies to mitigate YBD is needed; otherwise, M. annularis may suffer a fate similar to that of the Atlantic acroporids.

KEY WORDS: Coral disease · Yellow band disease · YBD · Montastraea annularis

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