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ROLE OF CORAL DISEASES AND ANTHROPOGENIC STRESSORS ON TROPIC MARINE CORAL REEFS
Santavy, D L. AND J G. Campbell. ROLE OF CORAL DISEASES AND ANTHROPOGENIC STRESSORS ON TROPIC MARINE CORAL REEFS. Presented at SETAC 19th Annual Meeting, Charlotte, NC, November 15 - 19, 1998.
Stony (scleractinian) and soft (octocorals) corals throughout the Western Atlantic have been affected by several fatal diseases in the last two decades. In many locations the communities have not recovered from these diseases and the ecosystem has permanently changed. Several hypotheses have attempted to explain these the causes of the destructive events. These hypotheses have ranged from deleterious effects of anthropogenic inputs to epizootics to ariel deposition of Saharan particulates. In the Florida Keys, the coral reef ecosystem has experienced changes in water quality from extreme coastal development resulting in landscape modifications. Increased levels of nutrients, metals, pesticides, herbicides, and particulates are entering into the marine environment in this region. It is clear that corals, a rare and protected resource, are exposed to increasing physical, chemical, biological and climatic assaults. Concurrently, increases in coral tissue loss, lesions, neoplasms, and mortality have been observed throughout this same region. Studies in the Lower Florida Keys, the New Grounds, and the Dry Tortugas aim to establish baseline information on the occurrence of these diseases and relate them to potential stressors. Due to restrictions on coral collection in national sanctuaries, sponge species are being used as surrogates to determine potential contaminant bioaccumulations in corals. Previous studies have shown corals to be more sensitive to allochthonous substances than organisms from temperate estuarine and marine systems. Therefore it is becoming apparent that a lack of knowledge on baseline data, indicator and biomarkers species, bioavailability and bioaccumulation for tropical marine environments are hampering our ability to determine the conditional status of the ecosystem and measure its recovery after major assaults.