Article " Global Warming Not Only Danger to Corals"

Alina M. Szmant szmanta at
Fri Nov 16 14:11:05 EST 2001

Dear Ursula:

We'll have to see how this story plays out when it goes through some sort 
of peer review.  I can tell you that the biggest outbreaks of BBD I have 
ever seen were in totally uninhabited areas, such as Joulters Keys, at N 
end of Andros Island (totally remote, undetectable nutrient concentrations) 
and places like the offshore Belize Barrier Reef, again few to no 
people.   Just because these investigators can find some strange microbes 
in their samples doesn't mean these caused the disease, and they have to 
show they didn't contaminate the corals with there very presence.

Alina Szmant

At 04:51 PM 11/15/2001 -0500, Ursula Keuper-Bennett wrote:
>Greetings all,
>Just found this and thought others would be interested.
>I'm hoping too that someone might know what species of cyanobacteria was 
>involved here.  I'd also be interested in any comments people might have 
>about this article and the role cyanobacteria might play in disease 
>expression of coral or any other marine organism.
>Many thanks,
>Ursula Keuper-Bennett
>"Global Warming Not Only Danger to Corals
>  EarthVision Environmental News
>BOSTON, November 15, 2001 - Although scientists have warned that global 
>warming was wreaking havoc with corals across the globe, a creeping 
>bacterial infection that plagues corals, called black band disease, is 
>caused by a combination of human sewage and shipyard discharge researchers 
>say, which means corals are facing threats on more than one front. 
>According to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign geologist Bruce 
>Fouke and his colleagues, the corals are feeling the stress of 
>environmental pollution, which in turn makes them more susceptible to 
>bacterial infection.
>"Black band disease is characterized by a ring-shaped bacterial mat that 
>migrates across a coral colony, leaving dead tissue in its wake," says 
>Fouke. "Like a tropical rainforest, a coral reef system is a cradle of 
>biodiversity. If we
>destroy the reefs, we destroy the ocean's ability to reproduce."
>Fouke and his UI research team studied corals off the island of Curacao in 
>the Netherlands Antilles, near the Venezuelan coast. To identify the 
>microbes inhabiting the black band biomat, the researchers extracted the 
>microbes' DNA and found several organisms that are human pathogens, which 
>could be a direct link to raw sewage. Also present in the biomat was a 
>ropy network of cyanobacteria, a unique group of photosynthetic bacteria 
>that cannot live without light. In field experiments, the researchers used 
>shields to block light from infected corals. Black band disease 
>disappeared from the regions that were not exposed to light.
>"This indicates that cyanobacteria are an important part of the disease 
>development, but may not be the pathogen," Fouke said. "Perhaps the 
>cyanobacteria form an apartment complex, allowing a variety of destructive 
>anaerobic bacteria to take up residence in the low-oxygen microenvironment."
>Although Fouke says more tests are needed to see exactly what is killing 
>the coral, he notes that all the signs point to human pollution as playing 
>a role in the destruction. Fouke presented the findings at the recent 
>annual meeting of
>the Geological Society of America."
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Dr. Alina M. Szmant
Coral Reef Research Group
Professor of Biology
Center for Marine Science
University of North Carolina at Wilmington
5600  Marvin K. Moss Lane
Wilmington  NC  28409-5928
tel:  (910)962-2362  fax:  (910)962-2410
email:  szmanta at
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