Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

zooxanthellate
  • UNESCO-IOC Register of Marine Organisms
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Comprehensive Description

Biology: Skeleton

More info
AuthorSkeleton?Mineral or Organic?MineralPercent Magnesium
Veron and Wallace, 1984 YES MINERAL ARAGONITE
Veron, 2000 YES MINERAL ARAGONITE
Wallace, 1999 YES MINERAL ARAGONITE
Cairns, Hoeksema, and van der Land, 1999 YES MINERAL ARAGONITE
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Distribution

Range Description

This species occurs in Australia including the Great Barrier Reef, in the Marshall Islands (Richards pers. comm.) and Palau (Randall 1995).
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Physical Description

Diagnostic Description

Description

Colonies are digitate, with mostly terete branches and outward-facing corallites with wide empty calices. Colour: pale brown or cream, occasionally with blue branch tips. Abundance: rare (Veron, 1986 ).
  • Veron, J.E.N. (1986). Corals of Australia and the Indo-Pacific. Angus & Robertson Publishers, London.
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This species occurs on shallow reef flats. It occurs in reef lagoons. This species occurs predominately along continental or island coastlines, rather than on patch reefs. In Eastern Australia, it occurs in sub-tropical latitudes, in coastal shoals, rocky reefs and on some cay-bearing reefs offshore, but is rarely seen on middle and outer reefs of the Great Barrier Reef (Wallace 1999).

This species is found from 0-5 m depth.

General genus information: throughout its range, Acropora can be found on any stretch of reef and is often the dominant coral, especially along the reef front. Staghorn and plate forms flourish in sheltered areas, whereas clusters and semi-massive types can withstand more exposed conditions. Species that occur from the reef top to the reef slope become gradually more flattened with depth (Wood 1983).

Systems
  • Marine
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Depth range based on 1 specimen in 1 taxon.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 2 - 2
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Richards, Z., Delbeek, J.C., Lovell, E., Bass, D., Aeby, G. & Reboton, C.

Reviewer/s
Livingstone, S., Polidoro, B. & Smith, J. (Global Marine Species Assessment)

Contributor/s

Justification
This is a rare species. It is particularly susceptible to disease, crown-of-thorns starfish predation and extensive reduction of coral reef habitat due to a combination of threats. However, its distribution is in areas where reefs have not suffered as serious declines as in other regions. Specific population trends are unknown but population reduction can be inferred from declines in habitat quality based on the combined estimates of both destroyed reefs and reefs at the critical stage of degradation within its range (Wilkinson 2004). Its threat susceptibility increases the likelihood of being lost within one generation in the future from reefs at a critical stage. The estimated habitat degradation and loss of 10% over three generation lengths (30 years) is the best inference of population reduction and does not meet the threshold any threatened category and therefore is listed as Least Concern. It will be important to reassess this species in 10 years time because of predicted threats from climate change and ocean acidification.
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Population

Population
This species is usually rare.

There is no species specific population information available for this species. However, there is evidence that overall coral reef habitat has declined, and this is used as a proxy for population decline for this species. This species is particularly susceptible to bleaching, disease, and other threats and therefore population decline is based on both the percentage of destroyed reefs and critical reefs that are likely to be destroyed within 20 years (Wilkinson 2004). We assume that most, if not all, mature individuals will be removed from a destroyed reef and that on average, the number of individuals on reefs are equal across its range and proportional to the percentage destroyed reefs. Reef losses throughout the species' range have been estimated over three generations, two in the past and one projected into the future.

The age of first maturity of most reef building corals is typically three to eight years (Wallace 1999) and therefore we assume that average age of mature individuals is greater than eight years. Furthermore, based on average sizes and growth rates, we assume that average generation length is 10 years, unless otherwise stated. Total longevity is not known, but likely to be more than ten years. Therefore any population decline rates for the Red List assessment are measured over at least 30 years. Follow the link below for further details on population decline and generation length estimates.

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
Members of this genus have a low resistance and low tolerance to bleaching and disease, and are slow to recover. However, at Heron Island, it was the only reef flat species to survive the 2002 bleaching (Pratchett pers. comm.) and therefore may be resistant to bleaching.

Acanthaster planci, the crown-of-thorns starfish, has been observed preferentially preying upon corals of the genus Acropora (Colgan 1987). Crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) (Acanthaster planci) are found throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and the Red Sea. These starfish voracious predators of reef-building corals, with a preference for branching and tabular corals such as Acropora species. Populations of the crown-of-thorns starfish have greatly increased since the 1970s and have been known to wipe out large areas of coral reef habitat. Increased breakouts of COTS has become a major threat to some species, and have contributed to the overall decline and reef destruction in the Indo-Pacific region. The effects of such an outbreak include the reduction of abundance and surface cover of living coral, reduction of species diversity and composition, and overall reduction in habitat area.

In general, the major threat to corals is global climate change, in particular, temperature extremes leading to bleaching and increased susceptibility to disease, increased severity of ENSO events and storms, and ocean acidification.

Coral disease has emerged as a serious threat to coral reefs worldwide and a major cause of reef deterioration (Weil et al. 2006). The numbers of diseases and coral species affected, as well as the distribution of diseases have all increased dramatically within the last decade (Porter et al. 2001, Green and Bruckner 2000, Sutherland et al. 2004, Weil 2004). Coral disease epizootics have resulted in significant losses of coral cover and were implicated in the dramatic decline of acroporids in the Florida Keys (Aronson and Precht 2001, Porter et al. 2001, Patterson et al. 2002). In the Indo-Pacific, disease is also on the rise with disease outbreaks recently reported from the Great Barrier Reef (Willis et al. 2004), Marshall Islands (Jacobson 2006) and the northwestern Hawaiian Islands (Aeby 2006). Increased coral disease levels on the GBR were correlated with increased ocean temperatures (Willis et al. 2007) supporting the prediction that disease levels will be increasing with higher sea surface temperatures. Escalating anthropogenic stressors combined with the threats associated with global climate change of increases in coral disease, frequency and duration of coral bleaching and ocean acidification place coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific at high risk of collapse.

Localized threats to corals include fisheries, human development (industry, settlement, tourism, and transportation), changes in native species dynamics (competitors, predators, pathogens and parasites), invasive species (competitors, predators, pathogens and parasites), dynamite fishing, chemical fishing, pollution from agriculture and industry, domestic pollution, sedimentation, and human recreation and tourism activities.

The severity of these combined threats to the global population of each individual species is not known.
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
All corals are listed on CITES Appendix II. Parts of the species’ range fall within Marine Protected Areas.

Recommended measures for conserving this species include research in taxonomy, population, abundance and trends, ecology and habitat status, threats and resilience to threats, restoration action; identification, establishment and management of new protected areas; expansion of protected areas; recovery management; and disease, pathogen and parasite management. Artificial propagation and techniques such as cryo-preservation of gametes may become important for conserving coral biodiversity.
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