Florida's coral reefs are experiencing a multi-year outbreak of stony coral tissue loss disease.
Florida's coral reefs are experiencing a multi-year outbreak of stony coral tissue loss disease. Here is a description of the problem, what NOAA and partners are doing in response to the problem, and how you can help.
The ongoing outbreak of stony coral tissue loss disease in the Florida Reef Tract began in 2014 and continues to spread. It is highly active off Key West, Florida and appears to be expanding to the Caribbean region. The Lower Florida Keys are in the epidemic zone with the highest concentration of active disease.
While disease outbreaks are not uncommon, this event is unique due to its large geographic range, extended duration, rapid progression, high rates of mortality, and the number of species affected. Stony coral tissue loss disease affects at least 22 species of reef-building corals. Once infected, coral colonies typically die within weeks to months.
The disease is thought to be caused by bacteria and can be transmitted to other corals through direct contact and water circulation. Researchers are working to identify potential pathogens and relationships with environmental factors, developing strategies to treat diseased colonies, and identifying genotypes of corals that are resistant to the disease.
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Image via NOAA.