Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease
Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease, or SCTLD, is a disease affecting over 20 species of hard corals in the Caribbean. It is currently causing significant damage to coral reefs in Florida and beginning to be reported in other Caribbean islands. While diseases are not uncommon on coral reefs, SCTLD poses a particularly significant threat to Caribbean reefs because of its large geographic range, extended duration, high rates of mortality, and large number of coral species affected.
SCTLD is suspected to be caused by bacterial pathogens and can be transmitted to other corals through direct contact and water circulation. Many current efforts are under way to identify disease agents, relationships with environmental factors, strategies to treat diseased colonies, and identify genotypes of corals that are resistant. In conjunction with these activities, many resources are being developed to assist managers and other stakeholders with identifying and responding to the disease.
The resources provided here will be continually updated and are the result of collaborations amongst many partners working to combat SCTLD. Click to learn more about the agencies and organizations involved in this effort.
The resources below provide a broad range of information on the disease, with many providing up-to-date descriptions of current knowledge and research.
- SCTLD Webinar Library, AGRRA
- SCTLD Case Definition (pdf, 2.8 MB) – Describes susceptibility of different coral species, disease description and biology, and current research on disease mitigation.
- Florida Reef Tract Coral Disease Outbreak FAQ, Florida Department of Environmental Protection (pdf, 446 KB) – Answers common questions and provides general information on SCTLD.
- Florida Coral Disease Outbreak Overview, Florida Department of Environmental Protection (pdf, 607 KB) – Two-page overview of key factors of the outbreak and Florida’s response efforts.
- Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA), Where is the Disease Occurring Webpage – Lists current locations in the Caribbean with confirmed cases of SCTLD.
- Presentation: “Florida’s Ongoing Coral Disease Outbreak: Current Status, Research Findings, and Management Response”, Florida Department of Environmental Protection (pdf, 5.8 MB)
- Reef Resilience Network Webinar: Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease: Lessons Learned & Resources – Information on current research, Florida’s coordinated response structure, status of SCTLD in the Caribbean, and current resources.
- Reef Resilience Network Webinar: Restoration in the Age of Disease – Scientists discuss adapting restoration efforts during the SCTLD outbreak.
- Workshop Recording: Florida SCTLD Response/Caribbean Cooperation Team Virtual Workshop on Treatment and Intervention of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease: Approaches, Lessons Learned and Alternatives (3 hours)
- Dominican Republic Disease Action Plan (Spanish) - Developed for coral reef ecosystems in the Dominican Republic, this plan contains a monitoring design to evaluate the status of diseases and coral bleaching, and describes specific actions to monitor, communicate, manage, and design interventions to prevent or ameliorate the loss of corals due to SCTLD or coral bleaching.
- SCTLD Template Monitoring and Response Action Plan for Caribbean Marine Natural Resource Managers, MPA Connect (pdf, 2.1 MB) – Provides detailed information and protocols for monitoring the disease, intervention treatments, prevention methods, and more.
SCTLD Website Portals
The following websites have been developed by partners and offer a variety of information and resources on the disease.
- Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA) Database – Provides a location for submitting reports of SCTLD by scientific name and coral group, a map of current reports in the Caribbean, and numerous disease resources.
- Florida Department of Environmental Protection Stony Coral Tissue Loss (SCTL) Disease Response – Website with numerous resources on the disease, Florida’s response efforts, and citizen and media engagement opportunities.
- Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary SCTLD Portal – Provides a news feed of recent research and resources available on the disease outbreak.
- Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute Website – Additional website portal sharing resources on SCTLD.
Identifying the Disease
This coral disease is generally characterized by several lesions of dead coral tissue that occur across a coral colony and spread rapidly to cause whole colony mortality. Below are resources to help correctly identify SCTLD compared with other causes of coral mortality.
- MPAConnect Guide to Detect SCTLD on Caribbean Coral Reefs, Print Version (pdf, 5.5 MB); Digital Version (pdf, (479 KB) – One-page summary with pictures of susceptible coral species and actions managers can take.
- SCTLD Disease Identification PowerPoint, Nova Southeastern University (pdf, 5 MB) – Provides numerous pictures of disease corals for 14 different susceptible coral species.
- Field Identification Cards (Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, NOAA, and the National Park Service) – Photos of diseased coral species that can be laminated and used in the field.
- Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA) Stages of Coral Mortality – Provides description and slideshow with images of different conditions and causes of coral mortality to help distinguish with the disease.
Monitoring the Disease
If SCTLD is suspected in your location, it is imperative to report the disease and share pictures of diseased coral colonies to confirm the disease. The AGGRA database is currently collecting information on disease reports and can help confirm SCTLD as the cause of mortality. The other resources listed can be used for monitoring the disease.
Because SCTLD is a disease that spreads quickly, it is critical to have a plan already in place for how you will respond to the disease if sighted in your location. Management agencies in Florida have prepared several resources below describing their SCTLD response plan and structure.
- Florida Department of Environmental Protection Disease Outbreak Website – Shares regional response efforts, notes from regional coordination calls, and information from previous research studies on the disease.
- Coral Disease Intervention Action Plan, Florida Department of Environmental Protection (pdf, 2 MB) – Outlines Florida’s disease intervention goals and methodologies, selection of sites, treatment recommendations, and monitoring.
- Florida Disease Response Teams and Structure (pdf, 68 KB) – Describes the role and function of 10 different disease teams in Florida that are working together to respond to SCTLD.
Community members that are actively engaging with coral reef resources should be informed of SCTLD in areas where spread may be likely and once the disease has been confirmed. The following resources are available as examples of how to inform community members about the disease and engage them in response efforts.
- SCTLD Terminology for Clear Science Communications, MPA Connect – Provides a table of misleading language about the disease and alternatives for more accurate communications.
- Poster on Diver Awareness, MPA Connect (pdf, 3.6 MB) – Shareable resource for divers on how to identify diseased corals and how to report and share sitings of the disease.
- Poster on Decontamination, MPA Connect (pdf, 805 KB) – Shareable resource for divers on how to decontaminate diving gear.
- Best Practices for Divers, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (pdf, 861 KB) – Provides instructions for divers and snorkelers on general and gear-specific guidelines for disinfection and how to identify and report SCTLD.
- Virgin Islands Community Press Release and Meeting (pdf, 272 KB) – Provides an example of a rapid response communication to the local community after disease was reported in the US Virgin Islands.
- General Guidelines for Disinfection for Divers (pdf, 861 KB) – Infographic showing common “Do’s” and “Don’ts” for disinfecting dive equipment.
- Detailed Disease Contamination Protocol (pdf, 184 KB) – Provides detailed instructions for cleaning and decontaminating dive equipment to help reduce the spread of SCTLD.
- ‘What is Happening to Corals?’ Infographic – English (pdf, 7.6 MB); Spanish (pdf, 7.5 MB) – One-page infographic for the community on the disease, how to detect it, and actions to take/not take as citizens.
- Become a Coral Champion, Florida Department of Environmental Protection – Describes general best practices for citizens on boating, diving, and fishing to reduce impacts on coral reefs.