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Coral Disease and Health Consortium (CDHC) – Solutions Today for Reefs Tomorrow

This project began in January 2002 and is Ongoing

The Coral Disease and Health Consortium (CDHC) is a network of scientists and managers supporting conservation, restoration, and management goals to protect and restore coral reef ecosystems. Created in 2002, the CDHC was developed in response to the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force’s National Action Plan to Conserve Coral Reefs, Resolution 16.6.

Why We Care
Coral reef ecosystems are valued not only for their diversity (about 25 percent of all marine species are found on reefs) but for their revenue associated with tourism-, fishing-, and shoreline-protection, totaling $375 billion per year across the globe. In recent years, diseases have increased and coral health has declined. We have witnessed an unprecedented loss of live coral, with approximately 20 percent destroyed globally and another 20 percent degraded. These forces are changing the function and productivity of coral reef ecosystems.

Before the CDHC was established, the understanding of coral disease—its causes and its impacts—was based primarily on field observations, which lagged far behind what was known about terrestrial diseases. The consortium changed that by inviting scientists from 11 disciplines to join forces. Today, over 150 national and international partners work with us in the highly collaborative and completely voluntary consortium.

What We Have Found
In our first decade, we have:

  • Established diagnostic criteria and developed diagnostic tools
  • Conducted mechanism-based research on coral health and disease
  • Created Web-based tools for identification of coral lesions
  • Developed a Web-based tool for coral histology
  • Enhanced capacity building among the community through training and continuing education
  • Investigated coral disease outbreak investigations, led training efforts, and provided outbreak assistance.

What We Are Doing
Our consortium of biotechnologists, epidemiologists, toxicologists, microbiologists, veterinarians, and others have teamed up with a preventative healthcare approach to coral reef management. Our goals include developing better measures of coral ecosystem health and providing managers early warning of disease outbreaks and viable risk management options. The CDHC network of field and laboratory scientists, coral reef managers, and agency representatives are devoted to understanding coral health and disease. The team is highly collaborative and completely voluntary, with over 150 partners currently.

In further support of our goals, we have also coordinated and supported the Coral Collaborative Culture Facility and the International Registry of Coral Pathology:

  • Coral Collaborative Culture Facility.  The laws protecting corals make it hard for researchers to collect corals for research. The Coral Culture and Collaborative Research Facility grows and maintains select coral species under well characterized conditions, for use in collaborative research projects on coral health and disease. We’re also developing more effective husbandry protocols. Our corals are critical to studying basic biological processes (e.g., reproduction, physiology, biochemistry, genetics) and the transmission and progression of disease.
  • International Registry of Coral Pathology. We maintain a centralized repository of coral histology (tissues of diseased and healthy corals), photos, and reprints for use by the coral research community. This facilitates standardization of descriptive pathology and terminology of coral disease among the community, helping researchers better understand unknown etiologies of disease. It is the primary source of voucher materials for the coral research community.

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