, 20:1914 | Cite as

A survey of environmental pollutants and cellular-stress markers of Porites astreoides at six sites in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

  • Craig A. Downs
  • Cheryl M. Woodley
  • John E. Fauth
  • Sean Knutson
  • Martina Maria Burtscher
  • Lisa A. May
  • Athena R. Avadanei
  • Julie L. Higgins
  • Gary K. Ostrander


Coral communities along the coast of St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands have exhibited site-specific behavior in declines. In order to determine if these specific coral communities are stressed and whether a pollutant or environmental factor present at this site is a probable stressor, we surveyed six near-shore coral communities in St. John, USVI for environmental pollutants and to determine the cellular physiological condition of the coral, Porites astreoides. The six sites within St. John are Cruz Bay, Caneel Bay, Hawksnest Bay, Trunk Bay, Tektite Reef in Beehive Bay, and Red Point. Red Point was considered the reference site because of its abundance and diversity of species, and it was the furthest removed from down-stream and down-current anthropogenic activities. All sites showed distinct cellular-stress marker patterns, indicating that the physiological condition of each population was different. Populations at Cruz, Hawksnest, Trunk, and Tektite were stressed, as indicated by high levels of DNA lesions and expression of stress proteins. Hawksnest and Tektite were contaminated with polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), while Cruz was contaminated with semi-volatile organochlorines and nitrogen-based biocides. At least for Hawksnest and Tektite, stress-marker patterns were consistent with an exposure to PAHs. Fecal coliform levels were high in Cruz and Trunk, indicating fecal contamination, as well as consideration for management action. Results from this study serve as a justification for a more thorough and methodical investigation into the stressors responsible for declines of coral populations within St. John. Furthermore, this study supports the argument for the importance of local factors contributing to regional coral reef declines; that not all forces impacting coral are global.


Cellular stress Coral Environmental pollutants Stress-markers 



We wish to thank Rafe Boulon, Caroline Rogers, Jeff Miller, Tony Spitzack, Colette Diede of 6-Paq SCUBA, and Caneel Bay Resort. We would also like to thank Dr. Sylvia Galloway for editing and formatting assistance.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC (outside the USA)  2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Craig A. Downs
    • 1
    • 2
  • Cheryl M. Woodley
    • 3
  • John E. Fauth
    • 4
  • Sean Knutson
    • 5
  • Martina Maria Burtscher
    • 6
  • Lisa A. May
    • 7
  • Athena R. Avadanei
    • 7
  • Julie L. Higgins
    • 7
  • Gary K. Ostrander
    • 5
  1. 1.Haereticus Environmental LaboratoryCliffordUSA
  2. 2.Office of Public Health Studies, John A. Burns School of MedicineUniversity of Hawaii, ManoaHonoluluUSA
  3. 3.U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric AdministrationNOS CCEHBR Hollings Marine LaboratoryCharlestonUSA
  4. 4.Department of BiologyUniversity of Central FloridaOrlandoUSA
  5. 5.Pacific Biosciences Research CenterUniversity of HawaiiHonoluluUSA
  6. 6.Environmental Research Institute, North Highland CollegeUHI Millennium InstituteThursoScotland, UK
  7. 7.JHT Inc. Contractor at National Oceanic & Atmospheric AdministrationNOS CCEHBR Hollings Marine LaboratoryCharlestonUSA

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