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Florida Reef Tract Coral Disease Outbreak

The Florida Reef Tract is currently experiencing a widespread and lethal coral disease outbreak. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is working with dozens of partners from federal, state, and local agencies, non-governmental organizations, universities, and members of the community to investigate and solve this problem.

 

Key factors of the outbreak include:

grecian coral with disease
  • Large geographic range. Over half of the Florida Reef Tract has been affected – over 96,000 acres.
  • Duration of the outbreak. Disease has continued to spread for more than four years.
  • Number of coral species affected. 20+ of approximately 45 species of Florida’s reef-building corals have been affected.
  • Significantly high prevalence. Within certain species, disease is seen in 66-100 out of every 100 colonies surveyed.
  • High rates of disease transmission and mortality. Once a coral begins to lose living tissue, observations show that the colony will die within weeks to months.

 

Priority coral disease response activities include:

A woman attaches a coral sample to a tile
  • Coral disease investigation training on coral disease identification, ecology and investigation techniques.
  • Coral disease surveys and fixed site monitoring to document the spatial extent, mortality rates and species-specific impacts.
  • Strategic sampling and laboratory analysis to identify the presence of pathogens potentially responsible for the disease outbreak.
  • Data management and epidemiological analysis to analyze relevant datasets and determine what factors may influence disease progression.
  • Sampling plan and disease intervention workshops to determine priority data needs and potential management options to mitigate disease impacts.
  • Intervention experiments and field trials to assess the effectiveness of treatment techniques and prevent the further spread of disease.