Florida’s coral reef, which is the third largest reef on the planet, could be killed off by a mystery disease for which scientists do not have a cure yet. The reef’s star and brain coral started dying mysteriously four years ago.
Meanwhile, scientists found that a disease was extirpating the species locally. Now, if you go for a swim on the Miami-Dade County’s reefs you will likely not find any of the nearly extinct species.
Researchers believe that the disease is caused by bacteria, but they couldn’t identify an exact cause yet. The coral struck by the bacteria is affected by necrosis and dies. Corals affected by the disease have a white appearance.
Scientists warned that the disease can kill an entire coral in a matter of weeks. “And it doesn’t seem to stop,” coral reef expert Erinn Muller added.
While the cause of the disease is not fully understood, the ocean currents are making the things worse. The disease was brought to Florida by the currents and scientists expect the same currents to ferry the problem further south.
Coral Bleaching Weakening Reefs
The corals in the area are already weakened by another deadly phenomenon called coral bleaching. Because of warmer sea temperatures, corals expel the algae that call them their home. As a result, the corals look bleached.
Coral bleaching does not kill corals immediately, but it does put them under a lot of stress and makes them prone to diseases.
In just four years, many corals in Florida died, which means that there is less coral left to rebuild the local reef. Florida’s coral reef could be saved, though. Researchers are conducting a DNA analysis to find the real cause of the disease. If it caused by bacteria, antibiotics could help fix the problem.
Image Source: NPS