Coral reefs create a place in the tropics that allows the highest numbers of species to live in the Oceans. Unfortunately, these diverse habitats are under constant threat as they are sensitive to a changing environment. So increased temperatures, increased ocean acidity, and pollution all play a role in the destruction of coral reefs due to decreased water quality. Disease and infections are often a result, which can plague a coral reef. The last alarming case of infection occurred earlier this summer (2012) in Hanalei Bay, and other areas in Kauai, Hawaii.
Since last June, a white mass has been observed growing across the coral reef. The disease has spread at a rapid rate, now covering up to 40% of the coral in the Anini Bay area. This infection is known as white disease, and is killing the corals. Ocean scientists are working hard to determine the cause of this outbreak of disease.
Recently, marine biologists from US Geological Survey (USGS) have discovered that the injuries (mostly necrosis) are caused by fungal infections and cyanobacteria, and they usually leave intact the bare skeleton of the coral. The outbreak is cataloged as an epidemic disease, and ocean scientists are trying to find a solution.
As the cyanobacterial disease appeared closely associated to sediments onto corals (corals with more sediment showed the highest symptoms), the first solution from USGS is to control nearby sources of land input, because maybe the infectious organisms live in them, or it’s where they can find their nutrients. Researchers don’t know exactly what organism is doing this, so the in situ (in water) solution they’re applying is covering the damaged parts with marine putty, constructing some sort of barrier, in hopes to save the animals.
But the concern about the white disease is growing, not only because they don’t know how to stop it, but also because it is starting to affect other animals such as fishes or sea turtles. They don’t know if it’s because of the same disease, but the coincidence is strange. The case with the sea turtles is specially shocking, as they are growing tumors on their faces and throats, causing starvation and death. Check out the video below to find out more information in this terrible situation (the discussion of white disease starts at 2:33).
The hawaiian marine ecosistems are under a great threat, the problem doesn’t seem to be going away because after all, how can you stop a microorganism in a vast ocean?
What actions would you take to stop white disease from spreading? Let us know in the comments below