National Park Service


Date of this Version



PeerJ 6: e4800; DOI 10.7717/peerj.4800


U.S. Government Works are not subject to copyright.


Outbreaks of coral diseases continue to reduce global coral populations. In the Caribbean, yellow band is a severe and wide-spread disease that commonly affects corals of the Orbicella spp. complex, significantly impeding coral reproduction, and hindering the natural recovery of Orbicella spp. populations. Caribbean yellow-band disease (CYBD) lesions may be severe, and often result in the complete loss of coral tissue. The slow spread of CYBD, however, provides an opportunity to test methods to mitigate the disease. Here we report the results of in situ experiments, conducted within Buck Island Reef National Monument in St. Croix, USVI, to test the effectiveness of three techniques to minimize disease impact on Orbicella faveolata: (1) shading, (2) aspirating, and (3) chiseling a “firebreak” to isolate the lesion. Neither shading nor aspirating the diseased tissue significantly reduced CYBD tissue loss. However, chiseling reduced the rate and amount of tissue lost by 31%. While 30–40% of the chiseled lesions appeared to be free of disease signs 12–16 months after treatment, success significantly and steadily declined over 23 months, indicating a possible lack of long-term viability of the technique. The results of this study demonstrate that creating a “firebreak” between diseased and healthy- appearing tissue slows the spread of the disease and may prolong the life of O. faveolata colonies. The firebreak method yielded the best results of all the techniques tested, and also required the least amount of effort and resources. However, we do not recommend that this treatment alone be used for long-term disease mitigation. Rather, we propose that modifications of this and other treatment options be sought. The results also highlight the need for extended monitoring of CYBD after any treatment, due to the slow but variable rate and pattern of tissue loss in this disease.