Guidance for an Epidemiological Strategy and Establishing a Disease Surveillance Network for Caribbean Acropora palmata
Acropora palmata was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in May 2006 (71 FR
26852). In 2012, the National Marine Fisheries Service proposed the reclassification of A. palmata
(77 FR 73219) as endangered, but determined in 2014, that they would remain listed as threatened
under the ESA (79 FR 53852). This coral is present only in the Caribbean where its existence is
threatened by infectious pathogens, pollution, and human activities. There is a critical need to conserve remaining stocks of corals, but the status of this species is unknown in many regions in the
Caribbean because the capacity to assess their condition and monitor reefs is lacking. This is
particularly challenging in many Caribbean locations (e.g., small island countries). With limited
financial and personnel resources, these managers lack access to a coordinated network of
collaborators. The goal of this workshop was to provide methods that can assist coral reef
managers, particularly those with limited resources, to assess and manage the health of their
respective coral populations with a focus on A. palmata as a sentinel species. Specific aims of this
workshop were as follows:
Develop survey methods based on the sound principles and theories of epidemiology that
Provide demographic data directly comparable across regions.
Be simple enough to apply for managers with limited means.
Have sufficient sensitivity to detect adverse changes on reefs before it is too late to
Develop a means to analyze survey data to detect status and trends with the overarching
Detect and report declines in populations or recruitment or increase in mortality on
a real-time basis.
Define trigger mechanisms that would merit the recruitment of outside experts to
help investigate potential causes of unusual disease outbreaks or increases in
Ensure that surveillance design and analyses are sound and appropriate for island
Design the surveillance methodology and networks targeted to small Marine Protected
Areas with limited resources.
Develop a hierarchical structure, using the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World
Health Organization as models, to develop an implementation strategy for methods in
which surveillance is conducted and data analyzed, to detect anomalies. Resource managers
are supplied inexpensive techniques to diagnose the change and then a means of accessing
expertise when situations demand more specialized investigations.
Identify new methods or techniques from the available expertise to incorporate into the
overall guidance document.
The format was a working meeting with twelve recognized experts that were tasked with
developing a guidance document on disease surveillance and response. Each participant played a
vital role in developing the methodology supporting this guidance document; their collective
expertise included epidemiology, veterinary medicine, coral physiology, watershed characterization
Appearing as solitary forms in the fossil record more than 400 million years ago, corals are extremely ancient animals that evolved into modern reef-building forms over the last 25 million years. Continue Reading →
coral reef conservation program
The NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) is a partnership between the NOAA Line Offices that work on coral reef issues: the National Ocean Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, and the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service. The CRCP brings together expertise from across NOAA for a multidisciplinary approach to managing and understanding coral reef ecosystems.
Contact CRCP →
NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program
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