What is Causing an Increase in Coral Disease in the Caribbean?

Written by on October 9, 2012 in Marine Life
Scuba divers in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Photo credit: NOAA.

Scuba divers in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Photo credit: NOAA.

Researchers from Florida Institute of Technology are working to determine the cause of the recent increase of coral diseases in the Caribbean.

Robert van Woesik and his former student Erinn Muller examined and mapped the locations of coral disease clusters to determine whether the diseases are new or simply a result of environmental stress.

“When diseases cluster they are usually contagious and are spreading rapidly.  When they don’t cluster, environmental stress is usually the cause,” explained Muller.  Mapping diseases can also help determine how quickly a disease spreads.

By mapping three different coral diseases in the Caribbean, they concluded that they were not contagious.

“These coral diseases in the Caribbean are likely caused by stress,” said van Woesik, “and that stress is the warming seas that are the result of climate change.”

“We more easily catch a cold when we are stressed, and corals are likewise responding to stress by getting sick,” said van Woesik.  “The ocean will continue to warm, increasing the likelihood of coral diseases.”

Reef in the Caribbean. Photo credit: NOAA.

Reef in the Caribbean. Photo credit: NOAA.

To learn more:
Find the results published today in Global Change Biology: Caribbean coral diseases: primary transmission or secondary infection?

Copyright © 2012 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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