Case-control design identifies ecological drivers of endemic coral diseases

Caldwell, Jamie M., Aeby, Greta, Heron, Scott F., and Donahue, Megan J. (2020) Case-control design identifies ecological drivers of endemic coral diseases. Scientific Reports, 10. 2831.

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Endemic disease transmission is an important ecological process that is challenging to study because of low occurrence rates. Here, we investigate the ecological drivers of two coral diseases-growth anomalies and tissue loss-affecting five coral species. We first show that a statistical framework called the case-control study design, commonly used in epidemiology but rarely applied to ecology, provided high predictive accuracy (67-82%) and disease detection rates (60-83%) compared with a traditional statistical approach that yielded high accuracy (98-100%) but low disease detection rates (0-17%). Using this framework, we found evidence that 1) larger corals have higher disease risk; 2) shallow reefs with low herbivorous fish abundance, limited water motion, and located adjacent to watersheds with high fertilizer and pesticide runoff promote low levels of growth anomalies, a chronic coral disease; and 3) wave exposure, stream exposure, depth, and low thermal stress are associated with tissue loss disease risk during interepidemic periods. Variation in risk factors across host-disease pairs suggests that either different pathogens cause the same gross lesions in different species or that the same disease may arise in different species under different ecological conditions.

Item ID: 64328
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2045-2322
Copyright Information: © The Author(s) 2020. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit
Funders: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Stanford University (SU)
Projects and Grants: NASA Roses Ecological Forecasting grant NNX17AI21G, NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship, SU Woods Institute for the Environment Environmental Ventures Program
Date Deposited: 09 Sep 2020 07:40
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3104 Evolutionary biology > 310406 Evolutionary impacts of climate change @ 100%
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