Marine infectious diseases are a leading cause of population declines globally due, in large part, to challenges in diagnosis and limited treatment options. Mitigating disease spread is particularly important for species targeted for conservation. In some systems, strategic arrangement of organisms in space can constrain disease outbreaks, however, this approach has not been used in marine restoration. Reef building corals have been particularly devastated by disease and continue to experience catastrophic population declines. We show that mixtures of genotypes (i.e., diversity) increased disease resistance in the critically endangered Acropora cervicornis, a species that is frequently targeted for restoration of degraded reefs in the broader Caribbean region. This finding suggests a more generalized relationship between diversity and disease and offers a viable strategy for mitigating the spread of infectious diseases in corals that likely applies to other foundation species targeted for restoration.
© 2022. The Author(s).