Death In Paradise

This is not a British mystery drama. In fact, it is a serious very real mystery story with life and death consequences that will affect all of us. Earlier I posted three blogs titled Florida Reefs Could Be Like This. This blog is about a more likely scenario for our reefs and coastline. The scenario is affecting all of the Caribbean as we watch.

I had an eye opening under water SCUBA trip a week ago. I visited a place where I had been before and enjoyed very much. I dove in 20 widely separated reef locations. I was intentionally looking to see the condition of the reef system. I had an excellent trip but an extraordinarily disturbing finding. I took photographs of the reefs during the day and at night with white light. I also took photographs of the same sections of the reef at night with high energy blue light. The images might make you more aware of an advancing, worrisome problem. Previously I saw gorgeous, colorful panoramas of reefs teaming with all imaginable genus and species of marine life. Now many are completely or partially dead; covered with algae, decayed plants and a dirty mixture of sand plant detritus and broken coral. The larger fish were gone; tunicates not seen; smaller life forms missing, fewer small fish were present.

Fig. 1 Healthy brain coral with colorful, well defined ridge anatomy,
Fig. 2 Dead brain coral covered with algae, sand and debris.
Fig. 3 Pillar coral which took decades to grow is now dead along with all of the other stony coral in this area.

The pillar coral in the center of this image shows the relative indiscriminate action of the problem. It affects most of the stony (hard) coral of the reef. The soft coral and sponges are not directly effected, however, without the hard coral anchorage they don’t survive long.

Fig. 4 Detail of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease in process. The algae is not the cause but the consequence of the dead coral.
Fig. 5 After the coral dies it can’t reproduce and continue to build after a storm. The soft coral and sponges don’t resist storm surges. The reef is just a pile of random small pieces, blocks of larger dead coral heads, strands of surviving soft coral all overgrown by algae.

Here is the mystery.

What is causing the problem? How big is the problem? Where did it come from? What if anything can or should we do about it? These topics will be discussed in the following blogs. Your thoughts are not only welcome but encouraged.


Race to stop stony coral disease

Rapid spread of stony coral disease in the Mexican Caribbean

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#coral #stony coral #soft coral #sponges #tunicates #brain coral #pillar coral #dead coral

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