Aeby, G. S.
Baseline levels of coral disease in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Atoll Research Bulletin
"There has been a worldwide increase in the reports of diseases affecting marine organisms. In the Caribbean, mass mortalities among organisms in reef ecosystems have resulted in major shifts in community structure. However, our ability to fully understand recent disease outbreaks is hampered by the paucity of baseline and epidemiological information on the normal disease levels in the ocean. The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) is considered one of the last relatively pristine coral reef ecosystems remaining in the world. As such, it provides the unique opportunity to document the normal levels of disease in a coral reef system exposed to limited human influence. In July 2003, baseline surveys were conducted at 73 sites throughout the NWHI to quantify and characterize coral disease. Ten disease states were documented with the most common disease found to be Porites trematodiasis. This disease was widespread and is known to exclusively affect Porites sp. coral. Numerous other conditions were observed but at much lower levels of occurrence. Numbers of colonies affected by Porites trematodiasis were not enumerated but other types of conditions were counted with the average prevalence of disease estimated at 0.5%. Several of the observed disease states were distinct from what has been described from other coral reef systems. Coral genera exhibited differences in types of syndromes and prevalence of disease. Pocilloporids, common corals on the reefs of the NWHI, were comparatively resistant to disease. In contrast, acroporids showed the greatest damage from disease and the highest estimated prevalence of disease."
FY2004 CRCP Project ID 1221; Project Title: Long-Term Monitoring of Benthos (Coral, Other Invertebrates, Algea): Rapid Ecological Assessments at all U.S. Pacific Islands; Principal Investigator: Rusty Brainard