Twenty-year record of white pox disease in the Florida Keys: importance of environmental risk factors as drivers of coral health

Sutherland, Kathryn P., Griffin, Ashton, Park, Andrew, Porter, James W., Heron, Scott F., Eakin, C. Mark, Berry, Brett, Kemp, Dustin W., Kemp, Keri M., Lipp, Erin K., and Wares, John P. (2023) Twenty-year record of white pox disease in the Florida Keys: importance of environmental risk factors as drivers of coral health. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms, 154. pp. 15-31.

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Declining coral populations worldwide place a special premium on identifying risks and drivers that precipitate these declines. Understanding the relationship between disease outbreaks and their drivers can help to anticipate when the risk of a disease pandemic is high. Populations of the iconic branching Caribbean elkhorn coral Acropora palmata have collapsed in recent decades, in part due to white pox disease (WPX). To assess the role that biotic and abiotic factors play in modulating coral disease, we present a predictive model for WPX in A. palmata using 20 yr of disease surveys from the Florida Keys plus environmental information collected simultaneously in situ and via satellite. We found that colony size was the most influential predictor for WPX occurrence, with larger colonies being at higher risk. Water quality parameters of dissolved oxygen saturation, total organic carbon, dissolved inorganic nitrogen, and salinity were implicated in WPX likelihood. Both low and high wind speeds were identified as important environmental drivers of WPX. While high temperature has been identified as an important cause of coral mortality in both bleaching and disease scenarios, our model indicates that the relative influence of HotSpot (positive summertime temperature anomaly) was low and actually inversely related to WPX risk. The predictive model developed here can contribute to enabling targeted strategic management actions and disease surveillance, enabling managers to treat the disease or mitigate disease drivers, thereby suppressing the disease and supporting the persistence of corals in an era of myriad threats.

Item ID: 81096
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1616-1580
Keywords: Acropora palmata, Coral disease, Environmental drivers, Predictive model, White pox
Copyright Information: © The authors 2023. Open Access under Creative Commons by Attribution Licence. Use, distribution and reproduction are unrestricted. Authors and original publication must be credited.
Date Deposited: 04 Mar 2024 22:58
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1802 Coastal and estuarine systems and management > 180204 Control of pests, diseases and exotic species in coastal and estuarine environments @ 100%
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