Sad news to report on corals today – Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease—an infectious, water-borne disease that impacts hard coral species and damages entire reefs—has been found on corals in Dry Tortugas National Park.
Until now, Dry Tortugas National Park was the only remaining section of Florida’s Coral Reef without the disease.
While doing a routine survey on May 29, the park’s Coral Response Team observed the telltale white lesions (see photos). The team immediately applied the most effective treatment available, an antibiotic paste, to the infected corals.
As of now, the disease appears to be concentrated to just one area near the southeastern boundary of the park, approximately 2.5 miles east from Garden Key, where Fort Jefferson is located. The last survey on May 6 showed no evidence of the disease at this location, so we believe we caught it early.
While the situation is urgent, everyone can still do their part to save this incredibly important ecosystem. Corals are resilient when given the chance to recover. Even taking small actions, such as changing to a reef-safe sunscreen or disposing of trash properly to reduce marine debris, can go a long way.
To learn more, click to read the press release: https://www.nps.gov/…/stony-coral-tissue-loss-disease…
NPS Photo 1 by Rachel Johns: A biologist on the NPS Coral Response Team applies an antibiotic treatment to a coral infected with Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease. (Dichocoenia stokesii – Elliptical Star Coral)
NPS Photo 2 by Melissa Heres: The telltale lesions of tissue loss caused by Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease found on a Dichocenia stokeseii (Elliptical Star Coral) colony before treatment.
NPS Photo 3 by Rachel Johns: A Dichocenia stokeseii (Elliptical Star Coral) colony with antibiotic treatment applied to the margins of the lesion caused by Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease.