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Spatial Epidemiology Modeling of the Florida Coral Disease Outbreak

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Erinn Muller and Robert van Woesik

Coral diseases have caused widespread deterioration of coral reefs over the past five decades in both shallow and deep coral reef systems. However, very little is known about where, when, and why these coral disease outbreaks occur. Florida’s coral reefs are currently experiencing a multi-year disease-related mortality event that has resulted in massive die-offs in multiple coral species. Approximately 21 species of coral, including both Endangered Species Act-listed and the primary reef-building species, have displayed tissue-loss lesions that often result in whole colony mortality. First observed near Virginia Key in late 2014, the disease has since spread to the northernmost extent of the Florida reef tract (FRT) and south into the lower Florida Keys. Understanding the etiology, or cause, of coral diseases requires a multi-faceted approach. In the absence of a definitive diagnosis, a characterized etiology, and an understanding of environmental drivers, it is difficult to implement management actions to potentially control the spread of the disease(s) and associated environmental co-factors, and/or treat or manage affected corals. The present project investigated the epizootiology (i.e., the disease ecology) of the Florida tissue-loss disease at multiple spatial and temporal scales.

Last Modified:
February 14, 2024 - 10:36am

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