Jul 21, 2019 | Updated: 09:46 AM EDT

Coral Disease Claims Reefs Around Florida

Jul 12, 2019 09:36 AM EDT

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Symmetrical brain coral is highly susceptible to SCTLD
(Photo : Louiswray)
Symmetrical brain coral is highly susceptible to SCTLD

Just recently, an unknown coral disease has been affecting many corals in Florida. This has prompted scientists to collect the healthy coral specimen in the goal of the future restoration of the area's coral reefs via a gene bank.

A total of about 400 specimens of coral reefs have arrived in Miami on Friday as part of the rescue mission that scientists have conducted. The specimens may be used as a gene bank so that scientists could potentially breed new colonies and repopulate reefs in the near future.

Makai, the marine research vessel that carries out the rescue mission has returned from its five-day cruise at Dry Tortugas National Park. It carries tanks full of corals that haven't been infected by the disease yet. 
Upon examination, the scientists have identified the disease as the stony coral tissue loss disease. The harvested healthy corals will be housed at the University of Miami in the Rosenstiel School of marine and atmospheric science for a few weeks. It will be later ship to different zoos and aquariums across the nation.

As for coral reefs all over the world, pollution and development have continued to threaten the survival of the said invertebrates. Because of this, bleaching events are getting more frequent. Most experts say that this is associated with climate change. 

According to experts studying Florida waters, warmer temperatures have lead nutrient-rich bodies of water to produce more seaweed. This, in turn, results in suffocated corals. Another destructive human activity is dredging which also affects colonies as it increases boat and ship traffic around the Florida Reef Tract, taking a toll on the corals that used to thrive in the area. 

Scientists pointed out that the fast-spreading disease is new and alarming as it hammers the fragile ecosystem which is vital for the survival of marine life and instrumental for storm surge protection.

Andrew Baker, a marine biologist at the UM's Rosenstiel School and a coral scientist regarded the corals as the rainforest of the sea. Baker added that the coral reefs are among the most ecologically diverse ecosystems on the planet. Losing these ecosystems could mean losing millions of species that depend on them.

Baker explained that by collecting healthy corals and using them as a living seed bank for future breeding, there is hope to preserve the genetic diversity until the experts could find a cure for the fast-spreading coral disease.

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