Caribbean reef-building Acroporid corals have suffered a massive decline in the last 30 years with more than 90% succumbing to White Band Disease (WBD). Despite this, the disease is still poorly understood. The loss of such species not only leads to the collapse of entire communites of marine organisms, but also removes the reef as a natural barrier against hurricanes.
Now, scientists from the University of Florida have had the bright idea of applying Geographic Information Systems (GIS) techniques, as well as software previously used to examine human illness, to show where clusters of diseased coral exist with a view to finding out what exactly causes WBD outbreaks.
Initial research has already shown patterns that may not have been identified using exisiting techniques and it is proposed that these new methods could prove useful in other locations around the World, where this disease has also been reported.