Thermal stress and coral cover as drivers of coral disease outbreaks

Bruno, John F., Selig, Elizabeth R., Casey, Kenneth S., Page, Cathie A., Willis, Bette L., Harvell, C. Drew, Sweatman, Hugh, and Melendy, Amy M. (2007) Thermal stress and coral cover as drivers of coral disease outbreaks. Public Library of Science Biology, 5 (6). 0001-0008.

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Abstract

Very little is known about how environmental changes such as increasing temperature affect disease dynamics in the ocean, especially at large spatial scales. We asked whether the frequency of warm temperature anomalies is positively related to the frequency of coral disease across 1,500 km of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. We used a new high resolution satellite data set of ocean temperature and 6 y of coral disease and coral cover data from annual surveys of 48 reefs to answer this question. We found a highly significant relationship between the frequencies of warm temperature anomalies and of white syndrome, an emergent disease, or potentially, a group of diseases, of Pacific reef-building corals. The effect of temperature was highly dependent on coral cover because white syndrome outbreaks followed warm years, but only on high (>50%) cover reefs, suggesting an important role of host density as a threshold for outbreaks. Our results indicate that the frequency of temperature anomalies, which is predicted to increase in most tropical oceans, can increase the susceptibility of corals to disease, leading to outbreaks where corals are abundant.

Item ID: 1428
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: coral disease; white syndrome; thermal stress; coral cover; host density; Great Barrier Reef
Additional Information:

Copyright: 2007 Bruno et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Public Domain declaration which stipulates that, once placed in the public domain, this work may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose.

ISSN: 1545-7885
Date Deposited: 18 May 2007
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060299 Ecology not elsewhere classified @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
Citation Count from Web of Science Web of Science 208
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Last 12 Months: 8
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