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Neal, BP, Condit C, Liu G, dos Santos S, Kahru M, Mitchell BG, Kline DI.  2014.  When depth is no refuge: cumulative thermal stress increases with depth in Bocas del Toro, Panama. Coral Reefs. 33:193-205.   10.1007/s00338-013-1081-6   AbstractWebsite

Coral reefs are increasingly affected by high-temperature stress events and associated bleaching. Monitoring and predicting these events have largely utilized sea surface temperature data, due to the convenience of using large-scale remotely sensed satellite measurements. However, coral bleaching has been observed to vary in severity throughout the water column, and variations in coral thermal stress across depths have not yet been well investigated. In this study, in situ water temperature data from 1999 to 2011 from three depths were used to calculate thermal stress on a coral reef in Bahia Almirante, Bocas del Toro, Panama, which was compared to satellite surface temperature data and thermal stress calculations for the same area and time period from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coral Reef Watch Satellite Bleaching Alert system. The results show similar total cumulative annual thermal stress for both the surface and depth-stratified data, but with a striking difference in the distribution of that stress among the depth strata during different high-temperature events, with the greatest thermal stress unusually recorded at the deepest measured depth during the most severe bleaching event in 2005. Temperature records indicate that a strong density-driven temperature inversion may have formed in this location in that year, contributing to the persistence and intensity of bleaching disturbance at depth. These results indicate that depth may not provide a stress refuge from high water temperature events in some situations, and in this case, the water properties at depth appear to have contributed to greater coral bleaching at depth compared to near-surface locations. This case study demonstrates the importance of incorporating depth-stratified temperature monitoring and small-scale oceanographic and hydrologic data for understanding and predicting local reef responses to elevated water temperature events.

Kline, DI, Vollmer SV.  2011.  White Band Disease (type I) of Endangered Caribbean Acroporid Corals is Caused by Pathogenic Bacteria. Scientific Reports. 1   10.1038/srep00007   AbstractWebsite

Diseases affecting coral reefs have increased exponentially over the last three decades and contributed to their decline, particularly in the Caribbean. In most cases, the responsible pathogens have not been isolated, often due to the difficulty in isolating and culturing marine bacteria. White Band Disease (WBD) has caused unprecedented declines in the Caribbean acroporid corals, resulting in their listings as threatened on the US Threatened and Endangered Species List and critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. Yet, despite the importance of WBD, the probable pathogen(s) have not yet been determined. Here we present in situ transmission data from a series of filtrate and antibiotic treatments of disease tissue that indicate that WBD is contagious and caused by bacterial pathogen(s). Additionally our data suggest that Ampicillin could be considered as a treatment for WBD (type I).

Treibitz, T, Neal BP, Kline DI, Beijbom O, Roberts PLD, Mitchell BG, Kriegman D.  2015.  Wide field-of-view fluorescence imaging of coral reefs. Scientific Reports. 5   10.1038/srep07694   AbstractWebsite

Coral reefs globally are declining rapidly because of both local and global stressors. Improved monitoring tools are urgently needed to understand the changes that are occurring at appropriate temporal and spatial scales. Coral fluorescence imaging tools have the potential to improve both ecological and physiological assessments. Although fluorescence imaging is regularly used for laboratory studies of corals, it has not yet been used for large-scale in situ assessments. Current obstacles to effective underwater fluorescence surveying include limited field-of-view due to low camera sensitivity, the need for nighttime deployment because of ambient light contamination, and the need for custom multispectral narrow band imaging systems to separate the signal into meaningful fluorescence bands. Here we describe the Fluorescence Imaging System (FluorIS), based on a consumer camera modified for greatly increased sensitivity to chlorophyll-a fluorescence, and we show high spectral correlation between acquired images and in situ spectrometer measurements. This system greatly facilitates underwater wide field-of-view fluorophore surveying during both night and day, and potentially enables improvements in semi-automated segmentation of live corals in coral reef photographs and juvenile coral surveys.

Casas, V, Kline DI, Wegley L, Yu YN, Breitbart M, Rohwer F.  2004.  Widespread association of a Rickettsiales-like bacterium with reef-building corals. Environmental Microbiology. 6:1137-1148.   10.1111/j.1462-2920.2004.00647.x   AbstractWebsite

White band disease type I (WBD I) has been a major cause of the dramatic decline of Acroporid coral populations throughout the Caribbean during the last two decades, yet the aetiological agent of this disease is unknown. In this study, the bacterial communities associated with both healthy and diseased Acropora species were compared by 16S rDNA analyses. The bacterial communities of both healthy and diseased Acropora spp. were dominated by a single ribotype with 90% identity to a bacterium in the order Rickettsiales. Screening by nested PCR specific to the coral-associated Rickettsiales 1 (CAR1) bacterium showed that this microbe was widespread in both healthy and diseased A. cervicornis and A. palmata corals from 'healthy' (i.e. low WBD I incidence) and 'stressed' reefs (i.e. high WBD I incidence). These results indicate that there were no dramatic changes in the composition of the microbial community associated with WBD I. CAR1 was also associated with non-Acroporid corals of the Caribbean, as well as with two Acroporid corals native to the Pacific. CAR1 was not present in the water column. This bacterium was also absent from preserved Caribbean Acroporid samples collected between 1937 and 1980 before the outbreak of WBD I. These results suggest CAR1 is a relatively new bacterial associate of Acroporids and that a non-bacterial pathogen might be the cause of WBD I.