Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Articles



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Frontiers in Marine Science



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coral tissue loss disease, SCTLD, disease response, Montastraea cavernosa, Orbicella faveolata, amoxicillin, lesion treatment


The presence and abundance of 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. In 2014, stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD) was first identified in southeast Florida and remains endemic to the region, while continuing to spread throughout the Caribbean. Effective in situ intervention treatments using antibiotic paste can halt lesion progression on Montastraea cavernosa up to 90% of the time. This study investigated intervention activities over a three-year period to identify efficiencies in disease response. Since May 2019, 1,037 corals, >85% of which were M. cavernosa, were treated during disease intervention dives in southeast Florida. Treated coral density, the number of treated corals per meter along a dive track, was significantly higher in the first year compared to subsequent years and displayed annual peaks in late summer each year. Season significantly influenced treatment density, leading to higher values in the wet season across all years, 2019 to 2022. Areas of highest treatment density were identified between Haulover Inlet and Government Cut near Miami and Hillsboro Inlet in northern Broward County. Areas with the highest treatment density were only identified in the first year, suggesting that broadscale interventions may have decreased disease prevalence in subsequent years. Results indicate that in endemic areas with sporadic and dynamic disease prevalence, intervention efforts should be weighted proportionally across space and time to maximize intervention efficiency. This study provides optimistic results for the potential of interventions reducing disease prevalence and supports that disease interventions are an effective coral restoration tool that can decrease the increasing burden on post hoc coral restoration.






The author(s) declare financial support was received for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. Funding for disease intervention activities was provided by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) Award No. B96800. The funders had no role in data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of this manuscript.

We would like to thank the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for funding the disease intervention activities conducted under Award No. B96800. We also thank members of the Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources, Environmental Resources Management Restoration & Enhancement Section for conducting extensive disease intervention dives and treatments throughout the project. Without this support, our local reefs would have suffered even further damage from stony coral tissue loss disease. We also thank members of the GIS and Spatial Ecology Lab at Nova Southeastern University who have helped to collect and manage the study data.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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