Coral Disease Outbreak Studied in Hawaii

HONOLULU, April 6 (UPI) — A University of Hawaii rapid response team says it is investigating an outbreak of a coral disease called Montipora White Syndrome.

The outbreak was found in Kaneohe Bay on Oahu, Hawaii’s third largest and most populous island.

The emergency response team, which includes scientists from Hawaii’s Institute of Marine Biology, the U.S. Geological Survey and Bishop Museum in Honolulu is documenting the extent, spread and potential causes of the disease.

Montipora White Syndrome affects a prominent coral species — red rice coral or Montipora capitata — and rapidly kills colonies within weeks. Scientists said they discovered more than 100 colonies of red rice coral have been killed by the disease, which appears to be most prominent in South Kaneohe Bay. The cause of the disease is, as yet, unclear, officials said.

“Given that these reef resources play an important role in the culture and economy of Hawaii, understanding these outbreaks and their causes can help us prevent or at least mitigate the impact of future events,” researchers said.

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