Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Geographic analysis offers new insight into coral disease spread

Date:
July 28, 2011
Source:
University of Florida
Summary:
In the last 30 years, more than 90 percent of the reef-building coral responsible for maintaining major marine habitats and providing a natural barrier against hurricanes in the Caribbean has disappeared because of a disease of unknown origin.

In the last 30 years, more than 90 percent of the reef-building coral responsible for maintaining major marine habitats and providing a natural barrier against hurricanes in the Caribbean has disappeared because of a disease of unknown origin.

Now a University of Florida geographer and his colleagues applied Geographic Information Systems, known as GIS -- as well as software previously used to examine human illness -- to show where clusters of diseased coral exist. Their findings, published this month in the journal PLoS One, may help scientists derive better hypotheses to determine what contributes to coral disintegration.

"What you'll find is that spatial techniques have been used relatively little in the coral research community," said paper co-author Jason Blackburn, a UF professor of geography and member of UF's Emerging Pathogens Institute. "With these methods, we gain a better understanding of the disease's distribution across the reef."

Microbiologists and toxicologists often run laboratory tests on small samples of Acropora species of coral to determine the factors that contribute to white-band disease, known as WBD. It's visually identified as a white band moving from the base of the coral up, killing the coral tissue as it goes, leaving only the exposed coral skeleton behind.

Laboratory results spur a range of theories of causation -- anything from opportunistic pathogens to specific bacterial infections. Other scientists suggest that WBD is not the result of an outside agent, such as bacteria, but rather a stress response from the coral in reaction to changes in the marine environment, such as ocean pollution and rising ocean temperatures due to climate change.

Yet the cause remains unclear. The goal of this current study was to use GIS and spatial analysis to search for patterns in a WBD outbreak that might point to a mode of transmission or cause, Blackburn said.

"What we wanted to test is how much data scientists should gather to get the full picture of disease," he said. "What we found was that colony-level sampling, where individual Acropora colonies are counted and checked for disease, can show a far different picture of white-band disease than where only presence/absence of coral and disease are mapped."

The researchers used data gathered in 2004 from scientists stationed at Buck Island National Monument in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Rather than determining only whether coral was affected by WBD, samplers at the station counted the individual number of healthy and non-healthy coral colonies. University researchers were then able to use this information in the Disease Mapping and Analysis Program, known as DMAP. The free software, designed by the University of Iowa initially to study Sudden-Infant Death Syndrome, was used to create maps of WBD prevalence and to locate areas with significant disease clustering.

"While the focus of our study was on a specific white-band disease outbreak, our methods could be used to determine if there's a spatial component to just about any type of situation that might be present in an underlying population," said Jennifer Lentz, a Louisiana State University graduate student who is lead author on the paper. "For example, you could use these same techniques to determine whether people with cancer are clustered in a given geographical area, and if so is there something about those locations that might be contributing to the increased prevalence of cancer."

The researchers determined that 3 percent of the Acropora coral around Buck Island had WBD. They also found the locations of significant disease clusters, information scientists can then use to narrow where they should take samples for further laboratory tests. This is the first of several studies established by the researchers exploring which types of spatial analysis are the most appropriate for various types of coral data from the Caribbean.

For thousands of years, Acropora was the predominant coral in the Caribbean, but more than three decades of disease have destroyed the species ability to survive, forcing marine life out of their coral habitats, which exposes them to attack by predators.

"When these structures are gone, certain fish species have nowhere to go," said Lentz. "Whole marine communities start to collapse."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Florida. The original article was written by Claudia Adrien. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jennifer A. Lentz, Jason K. Blackburn, Andrew J. Curtis. Evaluating Patterns of a White-Band Disease (WBD) Outbreak in Acropora palmata Using Spatial Analysis: A Comparison of Transect and Colony Clustering. PLoS ONE, 2011; 6 (7): e21830 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0021830

Cite This Page:

University of Florida. "Geographic analysis offers new insight into coral disease spread." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 July 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110728144951.htm>.
University of Florida. (2011, July 28). Geographic analysis offers new insight into coral disease spread. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110728144951.htm
University of Florida. "Geographic analysis offers new insight into coral disease spread." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110728144951.htm (accessed October 2, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: 12 More Bodies Found on Japan Volcano

Raw: 12 More Bodies Found on Japan Volcano

AP (Oct. 1, 2014) — A dozen more bodies were found Wednesday as Japanese rescuers resumed efforts to find survivors and retrieve bodies of those trapped by Mount Ontake's eruption. (Oct. 1) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cultural Learning In Wild Chimps Observed For The First Time

Cultural Learning In Wild Chimps Observed For The First Time

Newsy (Oct. 1, 2014) — Cultural transmission — the passing of knowledge from one animal to another — has been caught on camera with chimps teaching other chimps. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Trapped Scientist Rescued from Cave in Peru

Raw: Trapped Scientist Rescued from Cave in Peru

AP (Oct. 1, 2014) — A Spanish scientist, who spent 12 days trapped about 1300 feet underground in a cave in Peru's remote Amazon region, was rescued on Tuesday. (Oct. 1) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Media, Industry Groups React To Calif. Plastic Bag Ban

Media, Industry Groups React To Calif. Plastic Bag Ban

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) — California is the first state in the country to ban single-use plastic bags in grocery, liquor and convenience stores. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins