Marine protected areas can prevent over-exploitation, but their effect on marine diseases is less clear. We examined how marine reserves can reduce diseases affecting reef-building corals following acute and chronic disturbances. One year after a severe tropical cyclone, corals inside reserves had sevenfold lower levels of disease than those in non-reserves. Similarly, disease prevalence was threefold lower on reserve reefs following chronic exposure to terrestrial run-off from a degraded river catchment, when exposure duration was below the long-term site average. Examination of 35 predictor variables indicated that lower levels of derelict fishing line and injured corals inside reserves were correlated with lower levels of coral disease in both case studies, signifying that successful disease mitigation occurs when activities that damage reefs are restricted. Conversely, reserves were ineffective in moderating disease when sites were exposed to higher than average levels of run-off, demonstrating that reductions in water quality undermine resilience afforded by reserve protection. In addition to implementing protected areas, we highlight that disease management efforts should also target improving water quality and limiting anthropogenic activities that cause injury.
Marine National Parks (MNP) are no- take reserves (‘reserves’) where extractive activities, including fishing and collecting, are prohibited. (25 years of protection at the time of the surveys)
|Climate change impacts||Effect of Nbs on CCI||Effect measures|
|Increased incidence/changing distribution of disease||Positive||coral disease levels (total and levels of specific diseases: black band disease, skeletal eroding band, brown band disease, white syndromes, atramentous necrosis or growth anomalies) and mean disease prevalence|
fringing inshore coral reefs in the Palm Islands (188340 S, 1468290 E) and Keppel Islands (238100 S, 1508570 E), both of which are located between approximately 12 and 15 km from the mainland of Australia