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    Exploring Individual- to Population-Level Impacts of Disease on Coral Reef Sponges: Using Spatial Analysis to Assess the Fate, Dynamics, and Transmission of Aplysina Red Band Syndrome
    ( 2013-10-07) Easson, Cole G. ; Slattery, Marc ; Momm, Henrique G. ; Olson, Julie B. ; Thacker, Robert W. ; Gochfeld, Deborah J. ; Lin, Senjie
    Background: Marine diseases are of increasing concern for coral reef ecosystems, but often their causes, dynamics and impacts are unknown. The current study investigated the epidemiology of Aplysina Red Band Syndrome (ARBS), a disease affecting the Caribbean sponge Aplysina cauliformis, at both the individual and population levels. The fates of marked healthy and ARBS-infected sponges were examined over the course of a year. Population-level impacts and transmission mechanisms of ARBS were investigated by monitoring two populations of A. cauliformis over a three year period using digital photography and diver-collected data, and analyzing these data with GIS techniques of spatial analysis. In this study, three commonly used spatial statistics (Ripley's K, Getis-Ord General G, and Moran's Index) were compared to each other and with direct measurements of individual interactions using join-counts, to determine the ideal method for investigating disease dynamics and transmission mechanisms in this system. During the study period, Hurricane Irene directly impacted these populations, providing an opportunity to assess potential storm effects on A. cauliformis and ARBS.