No effect of dredging on the prevalence of coral disease detected during a large dredging program.


Oceans Institute, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia; MScience Pty Ltd, Perth, Australia. Electronic address: [Email]


The frequency of disease within coral communities was evaluated using an 18-month series of coral photographs taken before, during, and after a major dredging program at Barrow Island, off Australia's northwest coast. Up to 60 corals were assessed repeatedly at each of four dredging 'impact' sites (<1 km from dredging), and four 'reference' sites (>20 km from dredging). Contrary to an earlier report, the frequency of occurrence of coral disease (usually <5% of corals) was not significantly altered by dredging. The pattern of occurrence of coral disease does not constitute a suitable early warning bioindicator of dredging impacts on coral. This study suggests that disease is difficult to measure and evaluate, and is not a key indicator in the potential impacts of dredging on coral health. We propose that environmental monitoring during dredging should continue to focus on known impact indicators.