Article " Global Warming Not Only Danger to Corals"

Laurie Richardson richardl at
Sat Nov 24 16:30:50 EST 2001

Dear Ursula (et al.): In answer to your questions about the article below, I can
provide you with some information.  As to the identity of the black band disease
cyanobacterium, it was described as Phormidium corallyticum in the 1980s
(Ruttzler and Santavy).
As far as comments about this article, it apparently overlooks a whole series of
more recent published, peer-reviewed papers about the nature of this coral
disease, which is caused by a pathogenic microbial consortium.  Two papers
specifically dealing with the dynamics and microbiology of the black band
microbial community in it's entirety are:
Carlton, R. and L. Richardson (1995). “Oxygen and sulfide dynamics in a
horizontally migrating cyanobacterial mat: Black band disease of corals.” FEMS
Microbiol. Ecol. 18: 155-162.
Richardson, L. et al. (1997). “Ecology of the black band disease microbial
consortium.”   Proc. 8th Intl. Coral Reef Symp., Smithsonian Trop. Res. Inst.,
Panama 1: 597-600.
In a separate response to you, Ursula, I'll list about 20 additional
peer-reviewed  papers  about black band disease.  All of them discuss the
cyanobacterial member.
As for other pathogenic reef cyanobacteria, very little is known (at least for
corals).  There are varying and conflicting reports about "red band disease",
but no definitive characterization to date.  Cheers, Laurie Richardson
ps  If anyone else is interested in the list of all black band related papers
(that I know of) send me a message and I'll forward them to you as well.

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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Laurie L. Richardson
Associate Professor
Department of Biological Sciences
Florida International University
Miami, Florida  USA   33199

phone:  305/348-1988
fax:  305/348-1986
email: richardl at

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