Corals in the Florida Keys Sanctuary Massively Killed by Unknown Disease

Everyone knows of the dangers facing the Great Barrier Reef, but they often tend to forget about all the other corals in the world. The reef in the Florida Keys, for instance, is one of the biggest attractions in the state, but we can’t say how long this will go on. Researchers have just discovered the existence of a mysterious condition that has been killing huge numbers of coral.

The coral reef in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary has a huge importance both locally and globally. It spreads across 360 miles on the eastern coast of Florida and represents the main tourist attraction in the state. Therefore, its well-being is incredibly prosperous for the economy. Also, it’s the third biggest reef on the globe, so it has an ecological importance as well.

Florida Keys corals Are in Huge Danger

Unfortunately, the Florida Keys coral reef is at a huge risk. We might soon see its surface shrinking, as researchers discovered it fell victim to a serious disease. About four years ago, the corals likely got infected with the strange virus, and its most numerous populations have already been decimated.

The most affected species are the brain and star coral. Unfortunately, these make up about half of the total coral populations at the Florida Keys, so the situation is quite serious. Also, researchers couldn’t quite identify the origin or source of the disease. Given the necrosis it causes on the corals, they assumed it must be caused by bacteria. However, they couldn’t prove it.

Footage Shows the Extent of the Coral Dieoff

The effect of the pest on the Florida Keys corals is truly shocking. Last year, officials at the Fish and Wildlife Foundation went exploring and managed to record a video of the disquieting state of the corals. The footage shows them in a pale white color, with the tissue slowly disintegrating.

Unfortunately, the images show only a small part of the problem. The phenomenon took place at full scale and almost equaled an entire extinction event. Actually, given the prosperity of the Florida Keys coral reef, this can really count as an extinction. Whenever one single piece of coral catches the disease, it slowly starts spreading to the whole organism and kills it within weeks.

Researchers Don’t Know Where the Infection Comes From

The worst thing about this is the fact that researchers couldn’t find the cause of the infection. However, they could find out something else. Global warming is not helping, as it’s only making the disease worse. Ocean currents push the infection further south, while coral bleaching only makes it worse. Also, as the ocean is getting warmer, the creatures that populate the corals are going away.

Not all corals are instantly killed by this infection. However, all these factors are only making them more vulnerable. The corals are no longer strong enough to recover their populations after the losses they have suffered, so they are on a pathway to extinction.

Bleached body of coral on the bottom of the ocean, florida keys

The Quest for Solutions Is On

This is a serious issue for the Florida Keys, so researchers are looking for solutions. They have collected a series of samples from the corals and are looking for DNA hints. This way, they hope they might find either a cause of a method of treatment. Their efforts should add up to other attempts to save corals everywhere.

Image sources: 1, 2.

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William E. Eubanks

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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