CORAL DISEASE OUTBREAK

Stony coral tissue loss disease

Stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD) is a new lethal disease first reported in Florida in 2014. The cause of the disease is unknown but it is affecting >20 species of corals especially brain, pillar, star and starlet corals. The disease spreads quickly causing high coral mortality. Since then, outbreaks of SCTLD have been confirmed in the Caribbean off Jamaica, Quintana Roo (Mexico), St. Maarten, St. Thomas (USVI), Dominican Republic, Turks & Caicos Islands, Belize, St. Eustatius (Netherlands), St. John (USVI), Puerto Rico, and Grand Bahama.

Characteristic of this disease is that sick colonies display multiple lesions and quickly die. Highly susceptible species are the meandroid corals–i.e., pillar corals (Dendrogyra cylindrus), elliptical star corals (Dichocoenia stokesii), smooth flower corals (Eusmilia fastigiata) and maze corals (Meandrina spp.). Starlet corals that develop numerous “blotchy” lesions, as well as diverse brain and star (boulder) corals, are also dying fairly quickly, followed by star corals (Orbicella spp., Montastraea cavernosa) and other coral species.

Tracking the Disease

Map of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease recorded throughout the Caribbean – The SCTLD Tracking Map is an interactive map that shows where SCTLD has been confirmed in the Caribbean. Sightings are submitted through the Online SCTLD Survey Form which then appears on the map as purple markers while the information is being thoroughly reviewed. Once reviewed, the markers turn green if SCTLD is not present/confirmed or Red if presence of SCTLD is confirmed. Florida data is provided by FWC’s Florida Fish & Wildlife Research Institute.

To submit a sighting or survey in the Caribbean, please see the “Report Sightings of SCTLD” section of this page or contact us at info@agrra.org.

Mapa – Enfermedad de pérdida de tejido en corales durosversión en español

If your browser fails to download this map, we suggest you try another browser. For Mac users: use Safari with OS 10.14.1; Firefox or Chrome with OS 10.14.2

See Country disease summaries on this Country page.

To cite or use this map in a report or publication: Kramer, P.R., Roth, L., and Lang, J. 2019. Map of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease Outbreak in the Caribbean. www.agrra.org. ArcGIS Online. [access date]. Check back frequently for updates.

Report Sightings of SCTLD

Reef researchers, managers and sport divers should continue to be on the lookout for sites with an unusually high percentage of diseased and very recently dead corals. If you see see any instances of disease, please submit your findings via the survey form below. Thanks to everyone who has responded so far.

If you see any instances of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease or suspected disease, please submit your findings and photos via one of the 3 survey forms below. There are 3 types of survey forms to make it easy to submit your data BUT you only need to fill out ONE of the forms per reef site. You can enter data by Scientific Coral Name, by Common Coral Group Name or by Roving Diver Survey.

If you have any questions related to diseased coral outbreaks please contact info@agrra.org

Caribbean SCTLD Dashboard

The Caribbean SCTLD Dashboard below provides summary information on the outbreak of SCTLD in the Caribbean and the regional efforts to respond to the disease. At the MPAConnect regional peer-to-peer learning exchange on SCTLD held in August 2019, Caribbean coral reef managers recommended the development of a regional dashboard to indicate the status of SCTLD and show the spread of the disease in the Caribbean. This dashboard is a direct response to that request. The dashboard was developed by AGRRA, in collaboration with MPAConnect, GCFI, and NOAA and is updated biweekly to monthly.

Dashboard features include statistics on countries affected and management response activities.

  • Upper Right Map shows:
  • – Presence/absence of SCTLD
  • – Response activities (training, education, monitoring, treatment)

Bottom Left Map shows a time-lapse of how SCTLD has been reported to occur through the region.

Lower Right Graph shows the coral species affected by SCTLD by number of countries reporting diseased corals.

To cite or use this dashboard in a report or publication: Roth, L., Kramer, P.R., Doyle, E., and O’Sullivan, C. 2020. Caribbean SCTLD Dashboard. www.agrra.org. ArcGIS Online. [access date]. Check back frequently for updates to the dashboard.

Susceptible Coral Species

Many different coral species are susceptible to the stony coral tissue loss disease. This interactive map allows the user to view the coral cover (recorded in AGRRA benthic surveys) of these susceptible species in different groupings/layers including:

  • Percent Coral Cover of 20 susceptible spp
  • ORBI spp: Orbicella species
  • 8 SCTLD spp: 8 of the most common SCTLD susceptible species (Colpophyllia natans, Dendrogyra cylindrus, Dichocoenia stokesii, Diploria labyrinthiformis, Eusmilia fastigiata, Meandrina meandrites, Pseudodiploria clivosa, Pseudodiploria strigosa)
  • AGAR spp: Agaricia species
  • SSID: Siderastrea siderea
  • DCYL: Dendrogyra cylindrus

Mapa de especies susceptibles versión en español

To cite or use this map in a report or publication: Kramer, P.R., Roth, L., and Lang, J. 2020. Map of Coral Cover of Susceptible Coral Species to SCTLD. www.agrra.org. ArcGIS Online. [access date]. Check back frequently for updates.

Latest News

Florida Keys Coral Disease Strike Team report FY19-20

Florida Keys Coral Disease Strike Team: FY 2019/2020 Final Report, June 15, 2020, Karen Neely, Ph.D., Nova Southeastern University
Protocol for Topical Antibiotic Treatment, June 15, 2020, Karen Neely, Ph.D., Nova Southeastern University

Since 2014, a multi-year, multi-species disease outbreak has progressed geographically along the Florida Reef Tract from an origin near Virginia Key. Termed Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD), it affects over half of the stony coral species on the reef and generally results in 60-100% infection rates and 100% subsequent mortality. Susceptible species include five of the seven ESA-listed Caribbean coral species and most of the reef-building species.

A response priority has been active in-water intervention to treat diseased corals to allow for the survival of priority colonies. As such, a coral disease response strike team was established by Nova Southeastern University to treat and monitor diseased corals. Additional duties of this team included training other regional strike teams, collecting colonies for laboratory trials, conducting coral spawning activities, and providing additional field support. The strike team was contracted for 100 days of in-water work.

This report outlines the activities undertaken and results of work conducted July 1, 2019 to June 15, 2020.

What does it look like?

This video gives a closer look at the SCTLD outbreak off the northern Caribbean region of the eastern Yucatan peninsula, Mexico. Researchers from UNAM’s Barcolab have been documenting its spatial extent and mortality since July 2018.

How is this disease different?

While disease outbreaks are not uncommon, the Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease Outbreak event has never previously been recorded. See Case definition (Oct 2, 2018).

  • Key factors of the SCTLD outbreak are*:
  • • Many coral species affected -Unlike other coral diseases, SCTLD has affected >20 species of approximately 45 Caribbean reef-building coral species. Certain species are highly susceptible to SCTLD. Other species, like acroporids, have not been affected.
  • • High prevalence – SCTLD disease is seen in many to all colonies of highly susceptible species. In Florida, 66-100 out of every 100 colonies surveyed were infected.
  • • Rapid mortality – Once a coral is infected, it begins to rapidly lose living tissue and the colony dies within weeks to months.
  • • High rates of disease transmission –When SCTLD is present on a reef, it spreads rapidly. Recent studies have suggested the disease is caused by a bacterial pathogen which can be transmitted via direct contact or through the water column.
  • • Large geographic range – SCTLD outbreaks occur over large spatial scales. Over half of the Florida Reef Tract has been affected: > 96,000 acres since 2014. SCTLD is now found along the entire Mexican Caribbean coast and has affected >30% of all corals.
  • • Long duration of the outbreak. SCTLD has continued to spread for more than four years in Florida.
  • *Information adapted from the Florida Disease Advisory Committee and Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Which Corals Are Affected?

Highly Susceptible Species*: Early onset (the species first affected during an outbreak), with rapid progression, and total mortality ranging from one week for smaller colonies to complete mortality over 1-2 months for larger colonies. Typically, M. meandrites and D. stokesii are the first to become affected at a site, followed by C. natans, and then the others show disease signs shortly thereafter.

Intermediately and Low Susceptible Species: a comprehensive list of other species that are less susceptible are found on the Coral Disease Identification Page. *Information adapted from the Florida Disease Advisory Committee and Florida Department of Environmental Protection 

A Closer Look at Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease

Coral Collapse: The Reef Plague, A Reuters Graphics Special, September 2019

How do I identify Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease?

Move through this slideshow to see how to identify the appearance of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) on susceptible corals in Florida. Slideshow provided by Karen Neely.

To view/download the complete slideshow in a PDF, click here.

Field Guide to Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease

Learn more about which species are affected and view a field guide to SCTLD

Where is this Occurring

See where this has already been reported.

Stages of Coral Mortality

See how the stages of disease affect the reef

Monitoring and Interventions

Actions to monitor and prevent the spread of the disease

What You Can Do

Take these steps to help reduce the spread of the disease

Resources

See what resources are available