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The good, the bad and the smelly: USGS at the 2008 Coral Reef Symposium

years, it appears that A. palmata has a greater potential to recover than Macx because of its higher growth rate, greater ability to colonize new areas, and lower vulnerability to bleaching and disease. The future of these major reef-building corals and of U.S. Virgin Island reefs will depend also on the connectivity between these reef zones and sources of coral larvae. For more information, contact Caroline Rogers at 340-693-8950, ext. 221, Also, check out the new fact sheet on coral diseases following the massive bleaching event in 2005; it can be found at

Research Suggests Coral Bleaching Increases Likelihood of Diseases: Unusually high-water temperatures can increase the occurrence of coral disease by either influencing the concentration or virulence of disease-causing agents, or by increasing host susceptibility through bleaching. The 2005 Caribbean coral-bleaching event provided the opportunity to test the compromised-host hypothesis on two species in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Researchers found that as water temperature increased, the prevalence of disease on both bleached and unbleached coral colonies increased, and bleached A. palmata colonies suffered greater disease-associated mortality than unbleached colonies. By November 2005, more than 98 percent of the Montastraea cover had bleached, and within 5 months, disease incidence had increased 51-fold. Although the scarcity of unbleached Montastraea colonies prohibited a comparison between bleached and unbleached colonies, disease incidence returned to pre-bleaching conditions once colonies partially recovered by July 2006. These studies support the compromised-host hypothesis by indicating that disease prevalence and severity increase when colonies bleach, at least for A. palmata and Montastraea species. For more information, contact Erinn

Contact: Catherine Puckett
United States Geological Survey

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