Distribution and abundance of elkhorn coral, Acropora palmata, and prevalence of white-band disease at Buck Island Reef National Monument, St. Croix, US Virgin Islands
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In the 1970s and 1980s elkhorn coral, Acropora palmata, declined dramatically throughout the Caribbean primarily due to white-band disease (WBD). In 2005, elkhorn coral was proposed for listing as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act. WBD was first documented at Buck Island Reef National Monument (BIRNM). Together with hurricanes WBD reduced live elkhorn coral coverage by probably over 90%. In the past decade some recovery has been observed at BIRNM. This study assessed the distribution and abundance of elkhorn coral and estimated the prevalence of WBD at the monument. Within an area of 795 ha, we estimated 97,232–134,371 (95% confidence limits) elkhorn coral colonies with any dimension of connected live tissue greater than one meter, about 3% of which were infected by WBD. Despite some recovery, the elkhorn coral density remains low and WBD may continue to present a threat to the elkhorn coral population.
KeywordsAcropora palmata Buck Island Reef National Monument Elkhorn coral US Virgin Islands White-band disease
We would like to thank Richard Berey, Kassandra Cerveny, Letitia Dusich, Kimberly Ferrán, and Amy Swailes for being an outstanding field crew. We also thank Kathleen Batke, Chris Caldow, Crista Carroll, John Christiansen, Carol Daniels, Matthew Kendall, Mark Monaco, Joel Tutein, Ernesto Weil, Violeta Villanueva-Mayor, and Kimberly Woody. Funding was provided by NPS.
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