SE FL Reef-building-coral Response to Broader-scale Coral Disease Intervention to Aid in the Identification

Principal Investigator/Project Director

Brian Walker

Colleges / Centers

Halmos College of Arts and Sciences


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Start Date



A coral disease event has devastated the Florida Reef Tract since 2013. It has happened so quickly that many corals have perished before a response action could be taken. In 2017 a collaborative partner response effort began to help intervene and mitigate the disease outbreak along the Florida Reef tract. SE FL was hit first and hardest by the disease and has lost a significant amount of coral. Since the disease has persisted in the region since 2013, it is assumed that any remaining corals without disease are most resistant/resilient to infection or fighting it off. Furthermore, local disease intervention work has shown some corals respond well to treatments and may not be re-infected while others become so infected that the present strategies do not help. Thus, logic follows that those corals which have resisted infection, fought off infection, or respond well to present treatments may be hardier. In February 2019, FDEP funded work in SE FL to test how Montastraea cavernosa colonies respond to amoxicillin treatments versus chlorinated epoxy and to conduct broader-scale disease intervention efforts on all diseased coral species. This work established strike teams that visit many high-priority areas in Broward and Miami-Dade counties to tag, map, and treat diseased corals. It did not fund site reconnaissance or revisiting those sites through time to determine longer term success and identify corals or sites that respond better to treatments. Also the funding was limited to a four-month period, ending June 30, 2019. Here we propose to extend the FDEP-funded strike team efforts to include reconnaissance efforts to identify sites with disease-resistant colonies, continue disease intervention beyond June, and reassess the treated colonies to determine sites/corals that had a higher treatment success and are thus hardier. This information can then be used to target specific corals or sites to aid in future activities including research on why they are hardier and coral rescue and restoration efforts. This proposal specifically addresses several of the 2019 NOAA CRCP RFP objectives. Specifically, it addresses Climate Change-Florida objective – “Projects that assess the disease outbreak relative resilience of Florida's reef and identifies sites that may be resilient to the current disease outbreak” and item 4 of the Restore Viable Coral Populations-Florida objective “…identifying, and collecting/caching/propagating ‘stress hardened’ corals that should be targeted for propagation efforts under status quo stress scenarios.” It also addresses several NOAA CRCP strategic targets outlined in the most recent strategic plan including Target C1.4 “Support research at the international, national, and jurisdictional levels to answer key research questions to validate and improve the resilience-based management approach”, Target R4.1 “Support research and development of control techniques for coral diseases and corallivores”, and Target R4.2 “Implement control techniques at the appropriate scale to prevent additional coral losses.” This proposal also addresses a number of Florida Department of Environmental Protection Office of Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas Coral Reef Conservation Program goals listed in their 2011-2016 Strategic Plan. Specifically, it supports CRCP Capacity Objective 1 Strategy 1.2 – Maintain existing CRCP services, programs, and partnerships for threatened and endangered reef species recovery planning and implementation; Objective 2 Strategy 2.2 – Continue to engage in resource management activities which support conservation and management of the Florida Reef Tract as a holistic system, Strategy 2.8 – Track locations and information for threatened, endangered, and unique coral colonies and masses off southeast Florida, and Strategy 2.9 – Expand recovery rate information for functional groups on southeast Florida reefs.

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