From Martin County out previous Key West, a mysterious illness is attacking the stony coral reefs of Florida, liquifying them from the within out and leaving nothing seen however patches of skeleton.
Known as Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD), National Marine Sanctuaries says that since 2014, SCTLD has contaminated 150 sq. miles of stony coral, together with virtually half of the stony coral species that assist comprise the Florida Reef Tract. That consists of 5 species which are on the Endangered Species checklist.
The reason for the illness is unknown, though a bacterial pathogen of some type is suspected. SCTLD carries with it a mortality charge of 66 to 100 %. Once the illness units in, it’s going to doubtless destroy the colony inside weeks to a month.
According to the National Ocean Service, stony corals lay the foundations for and construct up reef constructions. The coral polyps, tiny animals associated to anemones, exude a skeleton of calcium carbonate. As previous colonies die off and new ones are fashioned on high of them, the coral reef grows.
SCTLD can be ravaging the reefs within the Caribbean. Marilyn Brandt of the University of the Virgin Islands advised Reuters, “I have never seen anything that affects so many species, so quickly and so viciously—and it just continues.”
Breaking the final rule about by no means touching a coral reef, Brandt’s group has began eradicating diseased bits with a hammer and chisel. Like deadheading a flowering plant, the hope is that when the diseased part of the coral reef is eliminated, the remainder of the reef will thrive.
While there may be at the moment no treatment for SCTLD, scientists try to determine the way to deal with it.
Dr. Andy Bruckner, analysis coordinator for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, says, “NOAA scientists are working with partners to identify a pathogen that causes the tissue loss, better characterize transmission of the disease, and understand the patterns of spread throughout the reef and overall impacts of the disease.”
Tissue samples are being taken to assist determine potential pathogens. Researchers are additionally holding monitor of situations within the ecosystem, akin to water temperature, water high quality and sedimentation.
Scientists are additionally working to create gene banks for particular species of coral, akin to pillar coral. When a treatment for the illness is discovered, the corals could possibly be positioned alongside the reef.
Keeping the coral reef in place is financially helpful to Florida. In the Keys, 58 % of all the roles are associated to marine actions. These jobs result in $3.38 billion in revenue and gross sales yearly.
Meanwhile, SCTLD maintains its inexorable unfold. Marilyn Brandt says, “This thing is more like Ebola. It’s a killer, and we don’t know how to stop it.”