Coral Reef Disease Prompts Puerto Rico to Declare a State Emergency
Coral reefs are diminishing in Puerto Rico due to a disease called Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) that causes coral tissue loss, therefore an ecological state of emergency have been declared on the island. Puerto Rico consists of the main island of Puerto Rico and other smaller islands in the Caribbean Sea.
According to Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment Organization, the disease was first identified in Florida in 2014, but it was first spotted on the eastern coast of Puerto Rico in 2019. Ever since, it has been spreading from the small islands east of Puerto Rico to the northern and southern shores of the vast island.
The disease affects around twenty species of hard coral, which means Caribbean reefs are more prone to the threat. The SCTLD is alleged to be caused by bacterial pathogens that apparently can be transferred to other corals through direct contact and water circulation.
The announcement of state emergency sanctions Governor Pedro Pierluisi to assign a million dollars to alleviate the crisis, but the plan to allocate the money is still uncertain. The only treatment known so far is a highly labor-intensive effort to apply an antibacterial ointment on the affected coral. Instead, scientists have mostly focused on coral restoration efforts.
Most coral reefs are built from stony corals and they are significantly essential for the marine ecosystem. A study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that visitors to Puerto Rico’s reefs spend nearly 2 billion dollars a year on the island, generating about four percent of the territory’s GDP.
In his declaration of emergency, Governor Pierluisi said;
We have to put this situation in the context of the natural disasters we have had, and the economic crisis and the pandemic. All of this has prevented an adequate response.
Pierluisi also highlighted the importance of the reefs. Coral reefs provide a home to more than 25 percent of all marine species, their loss could make the island even further vulnerable to mass losses.
The ongoing climate change-induced global warming and ocean acidification have already killed a significant proportion of coral reefs across the planet. These kinds of ailments could exacerbate the situation to a devastating scale. Hopefully, humankind will be able to take urgent and necessary actions to help save these aquatic wonders.
Via: World News