Defense Date

12-6-2022

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Type

Master of Science

Degree Name

Marine Science

First Advisor

Brian K. Walker, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Karen Neely, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Rosanna Milligan, Ph.D.

Abstract

Reef-building corals are crucial to the long-term existence of Caribbean coral reef ecosystems, providing both direct and indirect, local and global, ecological, economic, and social benefits. Stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD) is endemic in southeast Florida first appearing in 2014 and present in 2022. Effective in situ disease intervention treatments using antibiotic paste stop disease progression ~ 90% of the time. Between May 2019 and April 2022, 1,037 corals, >85% of which were Montastraea cavernosa, were treated during disease intervention dives in southeast Florida. This study investigated intervention activities over three years in an effort to make them more efficient. Treatment density, calculated by dividing the number of corals treated by the distance covered in each dive, was significantly higher during the first year than subsequent years. Treatment density was significantly higher in the wet season each year compared to the dry season. Local Coastal Regions Haulover South and Haulover North had the highest treatment density of all regions throughout the project. High treatment density areas in the first year did not recur in subsequent years, suggesting intervention successfully decreased local disease incidence. Results indicate that disease intervention efforts in Southeast Florida should be prioritized during the wet season and peak disease months June, July, and September, and at known dense coral locations to optimize the number of corals treated. However, periodic effort should occur year-round. Disease intervention activities have provided optimistic results for the future of Florida’s Coral Reef and are an effective tool for coral reef management.

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