Life histories offer a clue to the future of infectious disease on coral reefs

Laith Yakob, Peter Mumby


Increased frequency and severity of stressors associated with climate change are drastically altering ecosystems. Caribbean coral reefs differ markedly from just 30 years ago, with much restructuring attributable to infectious disease outbreaks. Using a classic epidemiological approach, we demonstrate how density-dependent demographic rates serve as a mechanism for intrinsic coral resilience to population perturbations arising from disturbances such as disease. We explore the impact of allowing infection status to influence demographic rates and ascertain outbreak thresholds that are corroborated by epizootic patterns observed in the field. We discuss how our threshold calculations may provide metrics of coral epizootic early warning systems. Integrating our infection model with equations describing the interspecific competition for space between coral and macroalgae, we provide new mechanistic understanding of the influence that coral life history dynamism and infectious disease have on the changing face of these threatened ecosystems.



transmission dynamics, early warning systems, population dynamics


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ANZIAM Journal, ISSN 1446-8735, copyright Australian Mathematical Society.