Dynamics of seasonal outbreaks of black band disease in an assemblage of Montipora species at Pelorus Island (Great Barrier Reef, Australia)

Yui Sato, David G. Bourne, Bette L. Willis

Abstract

Recurring summer outbreaks of black band disease (BBD) on an inshore reef in the central Great Barrier Reef (GBR) constitute the first recorded BBD epizootic in the region. In a 2.7 year study of 485 colonies of Montipora species, BBD affected up to 10 per cent of colonies in the assemblage. Mean maximum abundance of BBD reached 16±6 colonies per 100 m2 (n=3 quadrats, each 100 m2) in summer, and decreased to 0–1 colony per 100 m2 in winter. On average, BBD lesions caused 40 per cent tissue loss and 5 per cent of infections led to whole colony mortality. BBD reappearance on previously infected colonies and continuous tissue loss after the BBD signs had disappeared suggest that the disease impacts are of longer duration than indicated by the presence of characteristic signs. Rates of new infections and linear progression of lesions were both positively correlated with seasonal fluctuations in sea water temperatures and light, suggesting that seasonal increases in these environmental parameters promote virulence of the disease. Overall, the impacts of BBD are greater than previously reported on the GBR and likely to escalate with ocean warming.

Footnotes

    • Received April 1, 2009.
    • Accepted April 14, 2009.
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