Bleaching increases likelihood of disease on Acropora palmata (Lamarck) in Hawksnest Bay, St John, US Virgin Islands
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Anomalously high water temperatures may enhance the likelihood of coral disease outbreaks by increasing the abundance or virulence of pathogens, or by increasing host susceptibility. This study tested the compromised-host hypothesis, and documented the relationship between disease and temperature, through monthly monitoring of Acropora palmata colonies from May 2004 to December 2006, in Hawksnest Bay, St John, US Virgin Islands (USVI). Disease prevalence and the rate of change in prevalence showed a positive linear relationship with water temperature and rate of change in water temperature, respectively, but only in 2005 during prolonged periods of elevated temperature. Both bleached and unbleached colonies showed a positive relationship between disease prevalence and temperature in 2005, but the average area of disease-associated mortality increased only for bleached corals, indicating host susceptibility, rather than temperature per se, influenced disease severity on A. palmata.
KeywordsAcropora palmata Coral disease Bleaching Temperature Host susceptibility
This project was supported by funds from the US Geological Survey Natural Resource Preservation Program and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coral Reef Ecosystem Studies Program, and by in-kind contributions from the National Park Service (Virgin Islands National Park).
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