Summer 2022: The first edition of the new semi-annual SCTLD newsletter, a collaborative product of Florida Sea Grant, NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program, and the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force Coral Disease Working Group is focused on sharing coral disease knowledge and experience across U.S. coral jurisdictions. The newsletter highlights major updates, innovations, and accomplishments in coral disease response, prevention, and preparedness. It is geared towards an external audience in hopes of increasing awareness about the impacts of the disease and the need to sustain and enhance response efforts.The US Coral Reef Task Force, NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program and Sharing Coral Disease Knowledge and Experience across U.S. Coral Jurisdictions.
Newsletter published: March 29, 2022. (Para texto en español – haga clic aquí)
The Caribbean may be facing another widespread die-off of sea urchins. Diadema antillarum, also known as the long-spined sea urchin, is one of the most important herbivores on Caribbean coral reefs, removing algae and maintaining open space for coral growth.
In mid-February 2022, we first learned of extensive Diadema die-offs close to Charlotte Amalie Harbor in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI). Within a month, additional mortality events had been independently observed elsewhere in St. Thomas plus nearby St. John, as well as Saba, St. Eustatius, Dominica, Jamaica, St. Vincent, and perhaps other islands. See map below.
Diadema previously experienced a massive die-off throughout the Caribbean in the early 1980s. Sampling at the time was inadequate to determine the cause of their demise. Few Diadema populations have since fully recovered, resulting in algal-dominated states on many of the region’s reefs.
While we do not know what is causing these dispersed
die-offs, the speed at which large numbers of sick urchins are now dying on
affected reefs resembles the mass mortality event of four decades ago. We worry
that a real crisis is developing in the Caribbean, where stony coral tissue
loss disease (SCTLD) has already caused widespread coral losses affecting about
34 coral species in 20 countries/territories.
Signs of sick and dying urchins include detaching from substrate through loss of control of their tube feet, followed by loss of spines, tissue loss and rapid death.
Diadema Response Network
A region-wide collaboration–the Diadema Response Network–has quickly formed to track and try to understand the cause of this recent die-off of Diadema (and possibly other sea urchins). We need your help in reporting healthy, sick or dead urchins and in collecting samples to search for the causation of the die-off.
Caribbean Coral Rescue in the Face of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease: An Introduction.
The Caribbean Cooperation Team of Florida’s response to stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD), and MPAConnect, are pleased to invite you to join a webinar, “Caribbean Coral Rescue in the Face of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease: An Introduction” to be held on Monday, March 14th from 12:00pm to 2:00pm Eastern Time.
Efforts to rescue corals from reefs affected by SCTLD are being implemented in Florida and the wider Caribbean to support the future restoration of coral reef ecosystems as part of multifaceted responses to local disease outbreaks. We invite everyone working to combat the threat of SCTLD on their reefs to come and hear about these efforts as you consider whether or not coral reef rescue is an approach you wish to include in your SCTLD response efforts.
Please join us and be prepared to ask questions and share your ideas and ambitions for coral rescue.
workshop is being organized through the Caribbean Cooperation Team of
the Florida SCTLD response effort and is being hosted by NOAAs Coral
Reef Conservation Program, AGRRA and GCFI/MPAConnect.
interactive workshop is being designed for all those who need to decide
how to respond to SCTLD and are planning how to intervene or treat
corals sickened by this deadly disease.
Simultaneous translation will be provided (English, Spanish, French).
Story by Caroline Rogers, Ph.D., U.S. Geological Survey
A disease that threatens an entire ecosystem lies below the surface of the sea – out of sight and out of mind.
The disease, which is rapidly killing corals in Virgin Islands National Park,
is a crisis at least on the scale of the 1988 fires that roared across
Yellowstone National Park and the continuing infestations of hemlocks
and other old growth trees in Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky
Mountains and Shenandoah national parks.
But unlike the forest
challenges, this malady is hidden where it can’t always be seen and it
is killing corals, which are particularly slow growing; recovery, if it
even occurs, can take a particularly long time.
This deadly disease is still killing over 20 species of corals. Stony coral tissue loss disease is now present in national parks in Florida and the Virgin Islands, including Biscayne National Park, Buck Island Reef National Monument, Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve, Virgin Islands National Park, Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument, and found most recently, in May, in Dry Tortugas National Park.
Click here to read the full story on National Parks Traveler.
During the course of the trip, the volunteers were trained in the identification of 14 different coral species and the diagnosis of the diseases that might be infecting them. Working together, the TCRF dive leaders, trip customers and Aggressor staff completed six critical Atlantic Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA) surveys, as well as 40 roving diver surveys to document and quantify impacts from stony coral tissue loss disease on the reefs of the Turks & Caicos Islands (TCI).
Read more about the Turks & Caicos Reef Fund, the trip and their findings here.
The English language version of the Press Release appears below. Click for Spanish version/Comunicado de Prensa – versión en Español
June 4, 2020 – As stony coral tissue loss disease spreads in the Caribbean region, a new online tool is tracking its progression and recording the efforts made to control and respond to the threat that it poses to Caribbean coral reefs.
coral tissue loss disease spreads rapidly and affects some of the
slowest-growing and longest-lived reef-building
corals, including the iconic brain
corals, star corals and pillar corals that provide
habitat, shelter and nursery areas for numerous other marine organisms. The
loss of these corals affects overall coral reef health and can have cascading
impacts on the ecosystem services they provide – like food security, tourism
economies, and coastal protection for local communities.
resource managers and their partners across the Caribbean region are actively exchanging
information and sharing best practices about coral disease monitoring,
treatment and outreach.
year, Caribbean coral reefmanagers
from 17 countries and territories came together in Key West to learn about
stony coral tissue loss disease. They suggestedthe
creation of a regional dashboard to share the status of the disease within the
Caribbean,” explained Emma Doyle, MPAConnect Coordinator.
response to this request, MPAConnect (a
partnership between the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute and NOAA’s Coral
Reef Conservation Program) and the Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment Program
(AGRRA) collaborated on the development of a GIS-based dashboard as a new online
tool for managers.”
Intended to assist with
response to stony coral tissue loss disease, the dashboard contains topline statistics
that can be viewed at a glance. It also contains insightful information from
many hours of in-water coral reef monitoring that can now help managers to shape
their response to the disease.
“Maps on the dashboard show the presence of stony coral tissue loss
disease around the region, a time lapse of its progression and which coral
species have so far been most affected by stony coral tissue loss disease,” commented Patricia Kramer,
Program Director of Ocean Research and Education Foundation.
“A new tool is also
available that helps to indicate where corals that are most susceptible to
SCTLD are located based on existing AGRRA coral reef monitoring data,” she
The dashboard is made possible with support from the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program and Ocean Research and Education Foundation. It’s hosted by AGRRA using Esri ArcGIS software.
This webinar focuses on the Treatment and Intervention Approaches for SCTLD. It will feature talks from Reconnaissance and Intervention Team co-lead Karen Neely, Val Paul, Marilyn Brandt, and Mike Favaro of Ocean Alchemistics, LLC.
An outbreak of an epizootic coral disease, known as Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD), is severely impacting coral reef ecosystems in the Atlantic-Caribbean region. While the disease was first identified on Florida’s reefs in 2014, it has now spread to nine countries and territories in the Caribbean. Coral reef scientists and practitioners in the affected locations have been working to develop and apply existing and new intervention techniques in an effort to halt the spread of the disease, maintain reef structure and function, and protect rare species. Join our webinar to hear from leading experts on their experiences with different SCTLD treatment approaches as well as exciting new efforts to develop alternative treatment options using natural ingredients and probiotics. Presenters include Dr. Karen Neely from Nova Southeastern University, Dr. Marylin Brandt from the University of the Virgin Islands, Mike Favero from Ocean Alchemists LLC, and Dr. Valerie Paul from the Smithsonian Institution.
This webinar is co-hosted by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on behalf of the Caribbean Cooperation Team of the Florida SCTLD Response Effort and the Reef Resilience Network.
PRESS RELEASE February 13th, 2020 - The Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative (HRI) today released its 2020 Mesoamerican Reef Health Report Card. For the first time in 12 years of tracking the health of the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere, the overall condition of this vital ecosystem has deteriorated. The Reef Health Index (RHI), which synthesizes ecological data into a “Dow Jones” style index, decreased from 2.8 in 2016 to 2.5 in 2018. Despite the recent decline, reef health still shows improvement compared to 2006 when the HRI monitoring efforts began.
• Follow HRI on Facebook: @HealthyReefsForHealthyPeople
About the Healthy Reefs Initiative: Founded in 2003, Healthy Reefs for Healthy People (HRI) is a collaborative international initiative, hosted by the Smithsonian Institution and made up of more than 70 partners, that quantitatively assesses coral reef health and informs science-based management recommendations for the Mesoamerican Reef Ecosystem (MAR). HRI aims to improve reef management and decision-making to effectively sustain an economically and ecologically thriving MAR eco-region. Together with our partners, we are scaling-up and improving coral reef conservation, restoration and management throughout the region. Find out more at: http://www.healthyreefs.org.