, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 569-576

Nutrient enrichment enhances black band disease progression in corals

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Infectious diseases are recognized as significant contributors to the dramatic loss of corals observed worldwide. However, the causes of increased coral disease prevalence and severity are not well understood. One potential factor is elevated nutrient concentration related to localized anthropogenic activities such as inadequate waste water treatment or terrestrial runoff. In this study the effect of nutrient enrichment on the progression of black band disease (BBD) was investigated using both in situ and laboratory experiments. Experimental increases in localized nutrient availability using commercial time release fertilizer in situ resulted in doubling of BBD progression and coral tissue loss in the common reef framework coral Siderastrea siderea. Laboratory experiments in which artificially infected S. siderea colonies were exposed to increased nitrate concentrations (up to 3 μM) demonstrated similar increases in BBD progression. These findings provide evidence that the impacts of this disease on coral populations are exacerbated by nutrient enrichment and that management to curtail excess nutrient loading may be important for reducing coral cover loss due to BBD.

Communicated by Biology Editor H.R. Lasker