HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

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Defense Date


Document Type

Thesis - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology


Oceanographic Center

First Advisor

James D. Thomas

Second Advisor

Esther Peters

Third Advisor

Patricia Blackwelder


The high latitude thickets of Acropora cervicornis off Broward County flourish despite the presence of natural and anthropogenic impacts. These populations provided a unique study area in contrast to disease-stricken populations of the Florida Keys. This study used time-sequenced photographs to examine how A. cervicornis was affected by tissue loss attributed to white-band disease during 2007–2008. Variables monitored included healthy colony skeletal extension rates, diseased colony skeletal extension rates, and tissue loss. The transmissibility of the three white-band syndromes found in the Scooter and Oakland thickets was examined through tissue grafting experiments. Skeletal extension rates of healthy and diseased colonies were generally not significantly different. Mean skeletal extension for A. cervicornis colonies in Broward County was observed to be 9.6 cm/y (SD=3.95, Range: 1.02–19.9). Mean linear tissue loss from disease signs was 2.6 mm/d (SD=4.3, Range: 0.023–16.8). Although the majority of active disease lesions caused severe tissue loss upon contact with healthy branches, in 25% of the cases there was no tissue loss. Disease signs were also observed in 10% of the control grafting trials. A. cervicornis thickets in Broward County were growing at rates similar to those observed in this species elsewhere in Florida, but faster than other areas of the Western Atlantic. Tissue loss rate from disease lesions was lower than reported elsewhere. White-band disease and/or other tissue loss syndromes are always present in Broward County, but the low prevalence of affected colonies, inconsistent transmission of a presumptive agent that causes the disease signs, and optimum branch skeletal extension seems to limit effects on the thickets. Results of this research are significant as the current protected status of acroporid corals no longer allows manipulative research such as coral grafting for transmissibility of potential disease pathogens.



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