• Baseline reef health surveys at Bangka Island (North Sulawesi, Indonesia) reveal new threats

      Fratangeli, Francesca; Dondi, Nicolò; Segre Reinach, Marco; Serra, Clara; Sweet, Michael J.; Ponti, Massimo; University of Derby; Dipartimento di Scienze Biologiche, Geologiche e Ambientali, University of Bologna, Ravenna, Italy; Reef Check Italia onlus, Ancona, Italy; Reef Check Italia onlus, Ancona, Italy; et al. (PeerJ Inc., 2016-10-25)
      Worldwide coral reef decline appears to be accompanied by an increase in the spread of hard coral diseases. However, whether this is the result of increased direct and indirect human disturbances and/or an increase in natural stresses remains poorly understood. The provision of baseline surveys for monitoring coral health status lays the foundations to assess the effects of any such anthropogenic and/or natural effects on reefs. Therefore, the objectives of this present study were to provide a coral health baseline in a poorly studied area, and to investigate possible correlations between coral health and the level of anthropogenic and natural disturbances. During the survey period, we recorded 20 different types of coral diseases and other compromised health statuses. The most abundant were cases of coral bleaching, followed by skeletal deformations caused by pyrgomatid barnacles, damage caused by fish bites, general pigmentation response and galls caused by cryptochirid crabs. Instances of colonies affected by skeletal eroding bands, and sedimentation damage increased in correlation to the level of bio-chemical disturbance and/or proximity to villages. Moreover, galls caused by cryptochirid crabs appeared more abundant at sites affected by blast fishing and close to a newly opened metal mine. Interestingly, in the investigated area the percentage of corals showing signs of ‘common’ diseases such as black band disease, brown band disease, white syndrome and skeletal eroding band disease were relatively low. Nevertheless, the relatively high occurrence of less common signs of compromised coral-related reef health, including the aggressive overgrowth by sponges, deserves further investigation. Although diseases appear relatively low at the current time, this area may be at the tipping point and an increase in activities such as mining may irredeemably compromise reef health.