Black Band Disease of Kaua’i

In 2011 an Eyes of the Reef member reported the occurrence of a tissue loss disease exhibiting symptoms similar to Black Band Disease (BBD).  Dr. Thierry Work  (USGS) and Dr. Greta Aeby acted as primary responders in accordance to the State of Hawai’i Rapid Response Contingency Plan, and confirmed the reports on the North Shore of Kaua’i.  After their initial finding of a Black Band like disease, which resembles a black, white or yellow linear microbial mat that progresses across live coral leaving behind a semi-circular lesion, samples of the lesion area were collected and brought back to UHM. A portion of the microbial consortium was identified using molecular techniques, grown into “pure” cultures and stored. Our group found that the three bacterial players were a photosynthetic cyanobacterium, sulfur reducing Vibrios and a sulfate oxidizing Beggiatoa.  The cyanobacterium was very similar to Pseudoscillatoria coralii of BBD found in Palau, the Red Sea and the Great Barrier Reef.

As we have stated on our Coral Doctors opening page, all organisms have the capability of becoming sick and this is a natural component of ecosystem health.  It is when there is an increase in the frequency of occurrence of a disease in an ecosystem that evokes concern.  Corals are very slow growing animals and tissue loss disease increase in an ecosystem may lead to ecosystem phase shift or collapse.

After the confirmation of BBD on Kaua’i, rapid response surveys were performed. This lead to DAR and DLNR funding for the investigation of the spatial distribution, disease levels, and environmental factors that may be associated with the presence and levels of BBD around Kaua’i. Surveys have been conducted during the summer on the north shore and during the winter on the south shore.  Data collected consisted of substrate composition, disease frequency of occurrence (all disease states), coral cover, fish community composition, total suspended solids, sediment samples (as proxy for water motion and organic composition) and temperature. All data are being currently evaluated and will be presented in a time series on this blog; summer survey data will be presented at the end of January on this forum as well as Ocean Science Meeting in February.

We have been fortunate enough to have the support from community groups, organizations and businesses, which serve Kaua’i; Limahuli Gardens, The Hanalei Watershed Hui, The Waipa Foundation, Westshore Watershed, Surfrider, DOBOR, DOCAR, DAR, SOEST,Sea Sport Divers, and Kaua’i Community College.Image

Above Black Band Disease of Montipora flabellata



Above Black Band Disease of Montipora patula 


Above Black Band Disease of Montipora capitata

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