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Nutrient enrichment enhances black band disease progression in corals

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgments

We gratefully acknowledge Elizabeth Remily, Jorge Pinzón, and Catherine Booker for invaluable field assistance and Chad Husby for helpful discussion regarding statistical analysis. We also thank Drew Harvell, Howard Lasker, and one anonymous reviewer for helpful comments on the manuscript. Sample collections in the Bahamas were carried out under Bahamian Department of Fisheries permit MAF/FIS/79. This research was funded by an Environmental Protection Agency STAR MAI graduate fellowship to JDV (U-91608601-0), grants from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s Caribbean Marine Research Center (CMRC-03-PRJV-01-03C, CMRC-04-PRJV-01-04C, CMRC-05-PRJV-01-05C) to JDV and LLR, a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Budweiser Conservation Fellowship to JDV, a FIU Dissertation Year Fellowship to JDV, and partial funding by the National Institutes of Health (NIH/NIGMS S06GM8205) to LLR. This is contribution 112 from the Tropical Biology Program at FIU. Views expressed herein are those of the authors(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of CMRC, NOAA, or any of their sub-agencies.

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Correspondence to Joshua D. Voss.

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Communicated by Biology Editor H.R. Lasker

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Voss, J.D., Richardson, L.L. Nutrient enrichment enhances black band disease progression in corals. Coral Reefs 25, 569–576 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00338-006-0131-8

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Keywords

  • Coral disease
  • Black band disease
  • Nutrient enrichment
  • Coral reefs