American Association: Biology - Corals being killed off by fungus disease

THE CURRENT decimation of the coral reefs is being caused by a fungus, normally only found on land, which is being washed out to sea by soil erosion.

Scientists have studied the "bleaching" of reefs in the Florida Keys in the US and found that the fan-shaped corals are being attacked, causing lesions, tumours and eventually death.

Drew Harvell, associate professor of ecology at Cornell University, told the meeting that the death of hundred-year-old corals from diseases that they would have normally survived could be an early warning of far more serious problems for the global environment. "When we see corals that have persisted for hundreds of years suddenly die from opportunistic infections, we have to wonder what has changed in their environment," Prof Harvell said. Up to 40 per cent of the sea fan corals in the Florida Keys are now infected by fungal disease which scientists have attributed to falling water quality and increased biological stress due to rising ocean temperatures.

Garret Smith, of the University of South Carolina, identified the microbe attacking the coral fans as a common, soil-dwelling fungus called Aspergillus which was washed out by rivers flowing through intensively farmed agricultural land.

The fungus collects on the flexible, fan-shaped surfaces of the coral and causes an infection which first discolours the reefs and eventually kills them. The scientists believe sea fans, which position themselves perpendicularly to water currents to filter feed, are especially vulnerable to any disease-causing microbe.

Kiho Kim, a post-doctoral research associate at Cornell, said there is a growing consensus that the ocean ecosystems are now being degraded to such an extent that they are becoming havens for new infectious diseases.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Application Developer / Software Developer

£21000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software development compa...

Neil Pavier: Commercial Finance Manager

£65,000 - £75,000: Neil Pavier: Have you every dreamt of working for a global ...

Neil Pavier: Commercial Analyst

£50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...

Neil Pavier: Commercial Finance Manager

£55,000 - £65,000: Neil Pavier: Do you want to work for an impressive digital ...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower