CONDITION OF CORAL REEFS OFF LESS DEVELOPED COASTLINES OF CURAÇAO (PART 1: STONY CORALS AND ALGAE)
Coral reefs at 10-20 m depth off eastern and western Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles had high abundance and high cover (25-50%) of stony corals, although the latter declined between 1998 and 2000, primarily from impacts associated with Hurricane Lenny in November 1999 and coral disease. Most corals had lost 15- 40% of their live tissues and the amount of partial mortality declined with depth. Little recent mortality was observed (0.6% in 2000). Reefs were dominated by the Montastraea annularis species complex (46% of all corals ≥20 cm in diameter), which were 40% larger than other species. Overall, colonies of the M. annularis species complex sustained somewhat greater total (recent + old) partial-colony mortality (24%) than other stony corals (19%), and had a higher prevalence of disease. Yellow-blotch disease affected 14.5% of all colonies of the M. annularis species complex in January 2000; infected corals had twice as much total partial- colony mortality (44%) as uninfected conspecifics. Shallow reef communities at 8- 12 m appear resilient to disturbance, as evidenced by low macroalgal cover, a high abundance of stony coral recruits and juveniles, and declining disease incidence and prevalence overall. However, the high incidence of yellow-blotch disease in the M. annularis species complex and the absence of recruits of these species suggests their condition may continue to decline and a shift in species dominance may be underway.