Baseline assessment of coral health and disease in Tioman Island Marine Park, Malaysia

Abstract

Coral disease outbreaks continue to reduce coral populations in the Caribbean and Indo-Pacific reefs. However, there is limited research on coral diseases in Malaysian reefs, despite being exposed to multiple natural and anthropogenic threats. The present study aims to determine coral health and disease prevalence using coral video transect method among three reef areas with varying levels of coastal development and tourism activity in Tioman Island Marine Park, Malaysia. A total of 16,884 coral colonies were observed, the majority of which was healthy (64.4% ± 3.1) compared to diseased (5.9% ± 1.0) and compromised (29.7% ± 3.1). Reef sites with the highest concentration of tourism exhibited a high prevalence of coral diseases and signs of compromised health. Among the six identified coral diseases, yellow band disease/YBD (1.89% ± 0.9) had the highest prevalence, followed by ulcerative white spots/UWS (1.25% ± 0.2) and white syndrome/WS (0.82% ± 0.2). Meanwhile, algal and sponge overgrowth/AGO (11.39% ± 2.5), sediment necrosis/SN (7.55% ± 0.9), predation scars/PS (6.08% ± 0.7) and physical damage/PD (2.29% ± 0.9) were the most prevalent among the eight identified states of coral compromised health. Altogether, 33 scleractinian genera were influenced, with Fungia predominantly exposed to YBD (> 30% colonies), while Porites and Acropora were affected by UWS and WS (11–20% colonies), respectively. Overall, the severity of coral diseases and signs of compromised health, which is greater across the west coast and offshore areas compared to the east coast area, might be influenced by coastal development and tourism activities.

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Acknowledgements

The authors wish to express their gratitude to all laboratory teams from Kulliyyah of Science (KOS) and Institute of Oceanography and Maritime Studies (INOCEM), International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), for logistic, equipment, and technical assistances. Research was fully supported by the E-Science Grant (SF16-002-0071) from the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment & Climate Change (MESTECC), Malaysia.

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Akmal, K.F., Shahbudin, S. Baseline assessment of coral health and disease in Tioman Island Marine Park, Malaysia. COMMUNITY ECOLOGY 21, 285–301 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42974-020-00030-7

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Keywords

  • Coral reefs
  • Coral disease
  • Coral compromised health
  • Marine Park
  • Peninsular Malaysia