Although evidence suggests partial recovery from last fall’s mass bleaching event, the state says some coral colonies in Oahu’s Kaneohe Bay are now being impacted and killed by another disease.
Acute Montipora White Syndrome (aMWS) was detected on patch reefs in the last few weeks, according to the Department of Land and Natural Resources. This tissue-loss disease has been seen in Kaneohe Bay in 2010 and 2012.
“We don’t know precisely what causes this disease which causes corals to lose their tissue and ultimately kills them,” said Dr. Greta Aeby of Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. “aMWS only impacts one species of Montipora or rice coral; one of the most predominate species in the bay. We’re working on a number of hypotheses as to the cause, including the influx of organic carbon.”
Scientists from the DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources, HIMB and the U.S. Geological Survey are monitoring and assessing the extent of aMWS, trying to determine its cause and exploring methods to stop its spread.
Marine resource specialist Anne Rosinski said, “This disease can spread fast and has the ability to kill a small coral colony within one week. On some Kaneohe Bay patch reefs we’ve observed up to 90 percent of Montipora capitata corals affected and the majority of these are likely to die. However, the percentages vary greatly and not all of the reefs in Kaneohe Bay show elevated levels of this disease.”
It is unknown if there is a direct connection between the disease and the recent bleaching event, though bleached coral is generally more susceptible to diseases.
Temperatures are predicted to become dangerously warm for corals again in 2015. Bleaching is forecasted to happen during the time of highest sea temperatures from July to October.