Abstract

Shallow leeward reefs off the western end of Curaçao are dominated by extensive populations of M. annularis (complex). These species are larger in size (mean= 66 cm diameter) than all other species, with few small colonies (<30 cm) and notable absence of recruits. In 1998, colonies of M. annularis (complex) accounted for more then 45% of all species >10 cm observed within transects, and most exhibited low levels of partial mortality (mean=22.5%). These species were less abundant (38% of all colonies) in 2005. Partial mortality among live colonies of M. annularis and M. faveolata increased by 85% (mean = 42% partial mortality) and numerous dead colonies of M. faveolata and M. annularis were observed; M. franksi colonies were generally in excellent condition (14% partial tissue mortality). A high prevalence of coral diseases (3-30%) was documented among M. annularis and M. faveolata, while all other species were less frequently affected. Yellow band disease (YBD) emerged shortly after the 1995 bleaching event, and rapidly spread throughout all depths, with the highest prevalence between 1997-1999. YBD caused slow rates of mortality (≤1 cm/month), but multiple focal lesions appeared on individual colonies, and these progressively radiated outward as they killed the colonies. By 2005, 44% of the tagged corals were dead; the remainder exhibited active YBD infections (21%) or were in remission (31.6%) but were missing on average >90% of their tissue. Although the incidence of YBD has declined since 2000, white plague (WP) prevalence was unusually high (4-12%) in 2001 and 2005, with affected colonies exhibiting recent mortality of up to 70%. Dead Montastraea spp. surfaces are being colonized by other corals, including poritids, agaricids, and other faviids, while recruits of M. annularis (complex) are absent. If diseases and other biotic stressors persist on these reefs, M. annularis and M. faveolata populations may undergo a decline similar to that observed in the 1980s among Caribbean acroporids. Rev. Biol. Trop. 54 (Suppl. 3): 45- 58. Epub 2007 Jan. 15.
Keywords: coral monitoring, coral disease, yellow-band disease, white plague, star coral, Montastraea annularis (complex), Curaçao, Caribbean