How the coral mortality overtakes the sargassum crisis in the Mexican Caribbean

The Mexican Caribbean faces the highest mortality of corals in recent years, which is exacerbating the crisis in the region before the imminent mass arrival of sargassum to its beaches, experts said.

Sargassum México
Sargassum México

At least 20 of 45 species of corals have been affected by the disease called "white syndrome", whose rapid advance and effect worries the scientific community, said Anastasia Banaszak, of the Academic Unit of Reef Systems (ICML-UNAM) of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

The expert said that this disease, also called coral "whitening", has advanced more than 300 kilometers from the coasts of Florida (United States) in the last four years.

"In the Caribbean is a disease located in the north: Florida, Mexico, Jamaica, Dominican Republic and will continue to the south so they are already worried," she said.

She warned that following the same pace of progress, in the next ten years could be affecting the entire Mesoamerican Reef System, which extends along the Caribbean coast from Mexico to Honduras.

Banaszak said that the immune system of the coral colonies is weak and its fragility grows before the sargassum, which in the coming months will arrive massively on the beaches, according to experts.

"A 400-year-old coral can die in only two months and a whole colony can die in days, so the main problem is that it is not yet known how it is transmitted, what pathogen it is and what the transmission factor is," she said. he commented.

He confirmed that up to now the disease has been halted by 30%, registered from Cancun to Xcalak (one of the last virgin corners of the Mexican Caribbean located at the southern end of the so-called Mayan Riviera).

"We are monitoring to see how far it has arrived and what species have been affected, if it is viral or bacterial that is why antibiotics are used, investigations are on several fronts," the expert explained.

Banaszak explained that a paste prepared in the laboratory with an antibiotic concentration at the edge of the lesion, recommended by biologists at the University of Florida, was applied to the corals, where it gave good results.

Melina Soto and María del Carmen García, of Healthy Reefs and the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (Conanp), warned that the massive death of corals can cause problems to sectors such as fishing and tourism.

This massive loss affects recreational activities such as snorkeling and diving, which are usually practiced annually by more than 1.2 million tourists who arrive at the beaches of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, said María del Carmen García.

The biggest economic affectation, they agree, is the loss of the barrier function of a reef to contain the force of the ocean on the coasts.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Service (NOAA), the "whitening" of corals is one of the symptoms or undesirable effects of global warming.

In addition, refers that has to do with the excess acidity in the water by the high rates of dissolution of atmospheric carbon dioxide and can also contribute discharges of untreated water in beach areas, since it consumes part of the alkalinity natural of sea water.

The head of the Department of Ecology and Environment (SEMA) of Quintana Roo, Alfredo Arellano Guillermo, specified to EFEverde that work is being done to preserve corals and that to date, 12 million pesos (about 625,000 pesos) have been allocated. dollars) for its restoration since the problem was detected in the middle of last year.

Arellano said that more than 260,000 corals will be planted from Isla Contoy to Tulúm, in addition to implementing strategies for the restoration of reef areas for the recovery of reef ecosystem functions, including productive fishing and tourism activities.

The official added that the state government, under a scheme of institutional collaboration with Inapesca as the executing agency, is carrying out the "Program for the restoration of coral reefs" in the northern region of the state.

Recommended stories