- UNESCO-IOC Register of Marine Organisms
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The northern Red Sea from Rabigh to the Sinai Peninsula escaped most of the bleaching and the mortality of the last couple of decades. Destroyed and critical reefs are only 6% of the total (Wilkinson, 2004) because of its high latitude and very deep water extending close to shore, and wind induced upwelling. If these factors continue they are likely to contribute to survival of northern Red Sea species into the future. The southern Red Sea did not escape recent bleaching events and the Gulf of Aqaba and the Hurghada regions are affected by numerous direct impacts from coastal development and industry.
Genetics studies have, however, demonstrated the wide degree of differentiation of Red Sea populations from other Indian Ocean and Indo-West Pacific populations, consistent with a low level of gene exchange between the Red Sea and elsewhere. This relative isolation means that recovery following regional scale disturbance that decimates populations in the Red Sea may be compromised. For Red Sea endemics such disturbances would prove catastrophic.
Habitat and Ecology
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
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.
Acanthaster planci, the crown-of-thorns starfish, has been observed preferentially preying upon members of this genus (Colgan 1987). Crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) (Acanthaster planci) are found throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and the Red Sea. These starfish are 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.
The northern Red Sea from Rabigh to the Sinai peninsula escaped most of the bleaching and the mortality of the last couple of decades. Destroyed and critical reefs are only 6% of the total (Wilkinson, 2004) because of its high latitude and very deep water extending close to shore, and wind induced upwelling. If these factors continue they are likely to contribute to survival of northern Red Sea species into the future. However, the southern Red Sea did not escape recent bleaching events and the Gulf of Aqaba and the Hurghada regions are affected by numerous direct impacts from coastal development and industry. Genetics studies have however demonstrated the wide degree of differentiation of Red Sea coral populations from other Indian Ocean and Indo-West Pacific populations, consistent with a low level of gene exchange between the Red Sea and elsewhere. This relative isolation means that recovery following any regional scale disturbance that decimates coral populations in the Red Sea might be compromised. For Red Sea endemics such disturbances would prove catastrophic.
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.
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.