American Association: Ecology - Corals being killed by fungus disease

THE DESTRUCTION 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 100-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," Professor 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 that 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?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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: Weekend Factory Operatives

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This high quality thread manufacturer is curr...

Recruitment Genius: FP&A Analyst

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A market leading acquirer and m...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fully qualified electricians re...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service and Business Support Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: By developing intimate relationships with inte...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific