The impact of coral disease on the survival of the Florida Keys coral reefs
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In the Florida Keys, increases in disease abundance and decreases in coral cover were documented during the 1990s, raising concern about the contribution of disease to coral decline. The prevalence, severity, and lethality of coral diseases in the Florida Keys was quantified by following the fate of over 500 diseased colonies in 14 stations from 2002-2004, and assessing changes via digital photography. Disease prevalence ranged from 4.0-8.2%, and incidence of new infections fluctuated considerably from year to year. Between 2002-2004, disease lethality was low: 1% of the population died, and 3% suffered partial mortality from disease. Between 2002-2003, tissue loss to disease was small (0.4 m2), and monitored stations saw no significant changes in coral cover. However, unexpected long-term impacts of disease could be seen because 1) diseases targeted larger sized (more fecund) colonies, and 2) four of the most important reef building species accumulated most of the tissue loss. Index words: coral reefs, Florida Keys, coral disease, tissue mortality, dark color syndrome, bleaching, white plague, white pox, cyanobacterial mat disease, Caribbean yellow band, skeletal anomaly, disease prevalence, disease incidence, disease severity, lethality.
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