[Coral-List] Coralline Algae Lethal Disease AKA Goreau's Disease AKA Algae White Disease

EWeil eweil at caribe.net
Thu Nov 1 00:17:43 EDT 2007

Dear Tom, 

We are not calling this CCA syndrome "algae white disease" as you mention. Because the publication where you say this problem was described in 1991 was not readily accesible when we were checking the literature, and we found no other reference in peer reviewed publications, we described it  as "coralline white band syndrome" (CCWS) in a note in Coral Reefs in 2005 (Ballantine D , E. Weil and H. Ruiz (2005). Coralline white band syndrome, a coralline algal affliction in the tropical Atlantic. Coral Reefs 24:117). This afection is also mentioned in a review ms in chapter 2 of the book Coral Health and Disease (2004) edited by Rosemberg and Loya, and in the special Issue of DAO on coral reef diseases which has papers presented in the coral disease mini-symposium at the Okinawa coral reef symposium (Weil E, GW Smith and D Gil-Agudelo 2006. Status and progress in coral reef disease research. Dis Aqua Org, Vol. 69:1-7). I have observed different species of CCA with simlar signs (the thin, concentric white band)  in many distant geographic reefs in the Pacific (Australia, Palau, Philippines) Indonesia, east Africa (Kenya and Zanzibar) and the Caribbean. We are currently monitoring it as part of our surveys of 18 reefs in six countries in the wider Caribbean. As part of our CRES project in Puerto Rico,  I have collected information for several years on its prevalence, distribution, host range and rate of advance (CCA mortality) in several reefs off La Parguera to characterize its spatial and temporal variability (to be published in the near future).  Hope this clarifies the issue of using different names.     


Dr. Ernesto Weil
Department of Marine Sciences
University of Puerto Rico
PO BOX 3208
Lajas PR 00667
Pho: (787) 899-2048 x. 241
Fax: (787) 899-5500 - 2630

------- Original Message -------
>From : Thomas Goreau[mailto:goreau at bestweb.net]
Sent : 10/31/2007 5:16:26 PM
To : croquereef at gmail.com; Coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Cc : eweil at caribe.net; cnidaria at earthlink.net; esther.peters at verizon.net; LITTLERM at si.edu; littlerd at gmail.com
Subject : RE: Coralline Algae Lethal Disease AKA Goreau's Disease AKA Algae White Disease

Dear Aldo and Coral List readers,  

This slow spreading disease of encrusting red calcareous algae expands in circular lesions, but often stops short of killing the whole alga. It is distinguished by a white expanding ring, usually a millimeter or two wide, but in some cases up to a centimeter wide, with a sharp rim against the external pink or purplish encrusting red calcareous alga, The interior of the expanding circle is made up of a fine filamentous alga with a very distinctive olive green color. 

I have documented it globally since 1991. I have many images on video and a few photographs showing it all around the Caribbean, Indian Ocean, Pacific, and South East Asia, but have never had the time to compile them.  However I have seen rare examples of it on much older photographs, so while it is not genuinely a "new' disease, it has certainly greatly expanded in the last 15 years.  

I first noticed that this disease had spread very rapidly in the intertidal sea level notch in Negril, Jamaica, over a few months around 1991-2, and named it Coralline Algae Lethal Disease *CALD), by analogy with the Littler's Coralline Lethal Orange Disease (CLOD). Subsequently the encrusting reds in this habitat were overgrown and killed by fleshy algae as the area became eutrophic and algae spread all over the reef (NB: algae overgrew the reefs in Negril only in the early 1990s, after tourism development and NOT after the Diadema die off in 1983, or the earlier overfishing, as popular "phase shift" mythology claims).  Later Esther Peters mentioned it on her web site and called it "Goreau's Disease", a name I 'd rather see confined to something that is completely lethal and affects only politicians and their scientific servants. CALD is what Ernesto Weil and yourself have recently noticed and are now calling Algae White Disease. 

I wrote a paper describing this around 1992 in a report on environmental changes in western Jamaica published in the proceedings of a conference held by the Negril Coral Reef Preservation Society. I don't have either a xerox or a scanned copy available, and the original is someplace in the mountain of boxes in my basement, that is to say, effectively unreachable. It took me a couple of years to convince Mark and Diane Littler that this was in fact a disease they had not noticed before, and they now agree that it is far more widespread than CLOD.

Since CALD is so widespread, and I don't have time to compile my observations, I'm now forwarding this to the coral list server to see if other people are also noticing it. I'm sure it is present almost every place where encrusting red algae have not yet been totally smothered by eutrophic fleshy algae, although it's frequency varies greatly from site to site. 

Best wishes,

Thomas J. Goreau, PhD
Global Coral Reef Alliance
37 Pleasant Street, Cambridge MA 02139
goreau at bestweb.net

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