eCite Digital Repository

Spatiotemporal patterns of coral disease prevalence on Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia


Haapkyla, J and Melbourne-Thomas, J and Flavell, M and Willis, BL, Spatiotemporal patterns of coral disease prevalence on Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia, Coral Reefs, 29, (4) pp. 1035-1045. ISSN 0722-4028 (2010) [Refereed Article]

Restricted - Request a copy

Copyright Statement

The final publication is available at

Official URL:

DOI: doi:10.1007/s00338-010-0660-z


Despite increasing research effort on coral diseases, little is known about factors driving disease dynamics on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). This is the first study to investigate the temporal patterns of coral disease prevalence and potential drivers of disease around Heron Island, in the southern Capricorn Bunker sector of the GBR. Surveys were conducted in two austral summers and three winters between November 2007 and August 2009 on six sites around the island. Six diseases were detected: brown band syndrome (BrB), growth anomalies (GA), ulcerative white spots (UWS), white syndrome (WS), skeletal eroding band disease (SEB) and black band disease (BBD). The lowest overall mean disease prevalence was 1.87 ± 0.75% (mean ± SE) in November 2007 and the highest 4.22 ± 1.72% in August 2008. There was evidence of seasonality for two diseases: BrB and UWS. This is the first study to report a higher prevalence of BrB in the winter. BrB had a prevalence of 3.29 ± 0.58% in August 2008 and 1.53 ± 0.28% in August 2009, while UWS was the most common syndrome in the summer with a prevalence of 1.12 ± 0.31% in November 2007 and 2.67 ± 0.52% prevalence in January 2008. The prevalence of GAs and SEB did not depend on the season, although the prevalence of GAs increased throughout the study period. WS had a slightly higher prevalence in the summer, but its overall prevalence was low (<0.5%). Sites with high abundance of staghorn Acropora and Montipora were characterised by the highest disease prevalence (12% of Acropora and 3.3% of Montipora species were diseased respectively). These results highlight the correlations between coral disease prevalence, seasonally varying environmental parameters and coral community composition. Given that diseases are likely to reduce the resilience of corals, seasonal patterns in disease prevalence deserve further research.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:drivers of coral disease, Indo-Pacific, seasonality, sea surface temperature, brown band syndrome, growth anomalies
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology)
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Assessment and management of terrestrial ecosystems
UTAS Author:Melbourne-Thomas, J (Dr Jessica Melbourne-Thomas)
ID Code:68011
Year Published:2010
Web of Science® Times Cited:24
Deposited By:IMAS Research and Education Centre
Deposited On:2011-03-09
Last Modified:2013-03-13
Downloads:2 View Download Statistics

Repository Staff Only: item control page