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DISTRIBUTION AND FREQUENCY OF CORAL DISEASES IN THE FLORIDA KEYS AND THE DRY TORTUGAS
Santavy, D L., E. Mueller, J. W. Porter, E. C. Peters, L. G. MacLaughlin, J G. Campbell, M. Parsons, AND L. Becker. DISTRIBUTION AND FREQUENCY OF CORAL DISEASES IN THE FLORIDA KEYS AND THE DRY TORTUGAS. Presented at International Conference on Scientific Aspects of Coral Reef Assessment, Monitoring, and Restoration, National Coral Reef Institute, Fort Lauderdale, FL, April 14-16, 1999.
Reports of coral diseases affecting reefs in the Western Atlantic have been increasing. Few studies have attempted to document the incidences of different coral diseases in a single geographic area. Most studies have focused on a single disease within a small geographic area. This multi-year study assessed the distribution and frequency of coral diseases in South Florida. In 1997 and 1998, a comprehensive effort to assess scleractinian coral diseases in Biscayne National Park, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS) and the Dry Tortugas National Park was initiated. Fifty permanent reef stations were selected using a stratified random design, employing benthic maps to demarcate reef areas. Sampling was conducted inside a radial belt transect with a 10m-radius (314m2). At each station, colonies (>10cm) of species known to be affected by described diseases were counted to determine disease frequency. Eleven disease conditions affecting eighteen species of scleractinian corals and sea fans were described by gross visual signs. Reefs in the Key West area had a significantly higher incidence of disease than reefs in the New Grounds or Dry Tortugas for all four study periods. The greatest incidence of disease was on Key West Reefs in September 1997 (22.4%| 6.9), excluding bleached corals. Bleaching data were recorded by a separate observer for September 1998. Overall bleaching of colonies ranged from 26.0% | 4.4 on Key West Reefs to 2.20% | 1.7 on New Grounds Reefs. The study will continue to assess the frequency of disease in these locations over the next several years.