Published: December 04, 2013
The effectiveness of management plans developed for responding to coral disease outbreaks is limited due to the lack of rapid methods of disease diagnosis. In order to fulfill current management guidelines for responding to coral disease outbreaks, alternative methods that significantly reduce response time must be developed. Hyperspectral sensing has been used by various groups to characterize the spectral signatures unique to asymptomatic and bleached corals. The 2010 combined bleaching and Caribbean yellow band disease outbreak in Puerto Rico provided a unique opportunity to investigate the spectral signatures associated with bleached and Caribbean yellow band-diseased colonies of Orbicella faveolata for the first time. Using derivative and cluster analyses of hyperspectral reflectance data, the present study demonstrates the proof of concept that spectral signatures can be used to differentiate between coral disease states. This method enhanced predominant visual methods of diagnosis by distinguishing between different asymptomatic conditions that are identical in field observations and photographic records. The ability to identify disease-affected tissue before lesions become visible could greatly reduce response times to coral disease outbreaks in monitoring efforts. Finally, spectral signatures associated with the poorly understood Caribbean yellow band disease are presented to guide future research on the role of pigments in the etiology.