Coral Disease in Bocas del Toro, Panama

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For my directed research project at the end of my semester as a student researcher in Bocas del Toro, Panama, I investigated the prevalence of coral disease in the reefs of the Bocas del Toro archipelago. Read in detail about my study here.

I surveyed 20 reef sites, documenting the species, size, and abundance of stony coral colonies as well as incidence of disease, bleaching, and physical damage. In summary, I observed five described diseases as well as one unknown disease condition, which together affected 17.8% of host species colonies. I found positive correlations between coral disease and host species density, species richness and algal cover. However, I found no difference between coral disease prevalence inside and outside of the region’s marine protected area (MPA). These results establish a foundation from which future research can measure changes in coral health and the progression of reef degradation in the archipelago. They also suggest that creating MPA’s may not be the most effective management strategy for protecting corals in the region.

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