Rapid response team investigates coral disease outbreak in Kaneohe Bay, O'ahu

Apr 02, 2010

An outbreak of a disease called Montipora White Syndrome (MWS) was found in Kaneohe Bay, O'ahu within the last month prompting an interagency response team composed of scientists and students to document the extent, spread and potential causes of the disease. Members of the investigative team included scientists from the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa's Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB), USGS National Wildlife Health Center and Bishop Museum.

Corals are the very foundation of our coral reef ecosystem and are under threat from overfishing, land-based pollution and emerging coral diseases. Coral diseases have devastated the reefs of the Florida Keys, and MWS affects a prominent coral species (red rice coral or Montipora capitata) on Hawaiʻi reefs and rapidly kills colonies in weeks. The disease was originally discovered by Bob Tangaro, a boat driver at HIMB, who notified researcher Dr. Greta Aeby of his grisly discovery. Mr. Tangaro is a member of the Eyes of the Reef Reporting Network, a program that trains community members to identify threats to Hawaiʻi's reef including coral disease.

The investigative team discovered that over a 100 colonies of red rice coral have been killed by MWS. Clusters of diseased corals were found on reefs throughout Kaneohe Bay but the disease appears most prominent is South Kaneohe Bay. The cause of the disease is unclear, and laboratory studies are underway at HIMB and USGS to determine this.

Coral diseases in Hawaiʻi have been studied by HIMB and USGS since 2001, and these research groups have documented 17 different diseases that occur at fairly low levels; however, this recent outbreak appears particularly severe.

In 2003, Dr. Aeby discovered an outbreak of Acropora White Syndrome causing rapid tissue loss in table corals (Acropora cytherea) from French Frigate Shoals in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument; this disease killed numerous large corals. In January 2010 DAR biologists on Maui investigated an outbreak of chronic Montipora White Syndrome at Ahihi Kinau.

These events illustrates that, like in the Caribbean, reefs in the Pacific are susceptible to disease outbreaks. Given that these reef resources play an important role in the culture and economy of Hawaiʻi, understanding these outbreaks and their causes can help us prevent or at least mitigate the impact of future events.

Explore further: Salmon forced to 'sprint' less likely to survive migration

More information: For more information, please see the Marine Disease Research Lab website at: www.himb.hawaii.edu/HawaiiCoralDisease/

Provided by University of Hawaii at Manoa

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Coral reef was untouched by tsunami

Feb 23, 2006

Scientists say they've discovered a large coral reef off Thailand that was apparently undisturbed by the catastrophic December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Suicide: unexpected coral killer

Mar 20, 2007

A mysterious disease is causing the corals of the Great Barrier Reef to kill themselves - and scientists are battling to find out why.

Study finds seasonal seas save corals with 'tough love'

Nov 29, 2007

Finally, some good news about the prospects of coral reefs in the age of climate change. According to a new study by the Wildlife Conservation Society, corals may actually survive rising ocean temperatures ...

Is climate change likely to increase disease in corals?

May 08, 2007

Coral reefs, among Earth's richest ecosystems, traditionally teem with an abundance of life. But in recent years, corals have been dying in droves. Scientists suspect a variety of factors, ranging from accidental ...

Recommended for you

Genetically tracking farmed fish escaping into the wild

Aug 20, 2014

European sea product consumption is on the rise. With overfishing being a threat to the natural balance of the ocean, the alternative is to turn to aquaculture, the industrial production of fish and seafood. ...

France fights back Asian hornet invader

Aug 20, 2014

They slipped into southwest France 10 years ago in a pottery shipment from China and have since invaded more than half the country, which is fighting back with drones, poisoned rods and even chickens.

Tide turns for shark fin in China

Aug 20, 2014

A sprawling market floor in Guangzhou was once a prime location for shark fin, one of China's most expensive delicacies. But now it lies deserted, thanks to a ban from official banquet tables and a celebrity-driven ...

Manatees could lose their endangered species status

Aug 19, 2014

About 2,500 manatees have perished in Florida over the last four years, heightening tension between conservationists and property owners as federal officials prepare to decide whether to down-list the creature to threatened ...

User comments : 0