Florida’s Coral Reefs Face Mysterious Disease
Around the world, coral reefs are facing trouble. Coral bleaching, due in part to rising ocean temperatures, has stressed reefs, leaving them weakened and susceptible to disease. Now, in Florida, scientists are struggling to combat a mysterious disease that’s threatening the future of the world’s third largest coral reef.
In just four years, the so-far unidentified disease has already had a dramatic impact on Florida’s reef tract, which extends some 360 miles down the state’s Atlantic coast.
When corals are affected by the disease, the tissue sloughs off the skeleton. Once a coral is infected, it usually kills the entire coral, sometimes within weeks.
It’s proved especially deadly for species of brain and star coral, which form the foundation for many reefs. In some areas now, almost all of those corals are dead.
Scientists believe ocean currents help spread the disease. Since it was first discovered, it’s moved north, affecting reefs all the way up to the St. Lucie inlet. It’s now moving south, through the Florida Keys.
A large number of researchers are working to tackle the disease on many fronts. Some are using DNA analysis to try to identify the pathogens involved. Others are looking for ways to stop the disease from spreading.