Millepora platyphylla 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Cnidaria Hydrozoa Milleporina Milleporidae

Scientific Name: Millepora platyphylla Hemprich and Ehrenberg 1834
Common Name(s):
English Firecoral

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-01-01
Assessor(s): Guzmán, H. & Edgar, G.
Reviewer(s): Livingstone, S., Polidoro, B. & Smith, J. (Global Marine Species Assessment)
The most important known threat for this species is extensive reduction of coral reef habitat due to a combination of threats. Specific population trends are unknown but population reduction can be inferred from estimated habitat loss (Wilkinson 2004). Although this species is very susceptible to bleaching, especially in the Eastern Tropical Pacific portion of its range, it is very widespread and common in the Indo-Pacific portion of its range, where it is thought to recover more quickly from bleaching events, and therefore is likely to be more resilient to habitat loss and reef degradation because of an assumed large effective population size that is highly connected and/or stable with enhanced genetic variability. Therefore, the estimated habitat loss of 20% from reefs already destroyed within its range is the best inference of population reduction since it may survive in coral reefs already at the critical stage of degradation (Wilkinson 2004). This inference of population reduction over three generation lengths (30 years) does not meet the threshold of a threat category and this species is Least Concern. However, because of high mortality after bleaching events in the Eastern Tropical Pacific portion of its range, and predicted threats from climate change and ocean acidification it will be important to reassess this species in 10 years or sooner, particularly if the species is also observed to disappear from reefs currently at the critical stage of reef degradation.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species is widely distributed in the Indo-Pacific region (Cairns et al. 1999). It is found from the Red Sea and East Africa to northern Australia and French Polynesia. However, in the Eastern Tropical Pacific region, the species is only known from the Gulf of Chiriquí, Panama (Glynn and de Weerdt 1991). Before 1983, M. platyphylla was reported to be present at Contreras Islands, Secas Islands, Coiba Islands and Bahia Honda, in the Gulf of Chiriquí (Glynn and de Weerdt 1991).

Specific records: Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea (Socotra), Madagascar, Lakshadweep, W Thailand, NW Australia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, Yap, Pohnpei (Micronesia), Papua New Guinea, Bismarck Sea - Solomon Islands, Great Barrier Reef (DeVantier and Turak pers. comm.). American Samoa (Fenner pers. comm.).

Randall and Cheng (1984) give western Indian Ocean eastward to the Tuamotus and GBR to Japan.
Razak and Hoeksema (2003) give Indonesia, Australia, China, Guam, Japan, Oman, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand.
Countries occurrence:
American Samoa; Australia; Bahrain; Bangladesh; British Indian Ocean Territory; Cambodia; China; Cocos (Keeling) Islands; Comoros; Cook Islands; Costa Rica; Djibouti; Egypt; Eritrea; Fiji; French Polynesia; India; Indonesia; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Iraq; Israel; Japan; Jordan; Kenya; Kiribati; Kuwait; Madagascar; Malaysia; Maldives; Marshall Islands; Mauritius; Mayotte; Micronesia, Federated States of ; Mozambique; Myanmar; Nauru; New Caledonia; Niue; Oman; Pakistan; Palau; Panama; Papua New Guinea; Philippines; Qatar; Réunion; Samoa; Saudi Arabia; Seychelles; Singapore; Solomon Islands; Somalia; South Africa; Sri Lanka; Sudan; Taiwan, Province of China; Tanzania, United Republic of; Thailand; Tokelau; Tonga; Tuvalu; United Arab Emirates; United States Minor Outlying Islands; Vanuatu; Viet Nam; Wallis and Futuna; Yemen
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Indian Ocean – western; Indian Ocean – eastern; Pacific – eastern central; Pacific – northwest; Pacific – western central
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):18
Upper depth limit (metres):2
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:This species is considered relatively common in the Indo-Pacific region.

In the Eastern Tropical Pacific, Glynn (1997) found a population size of M. platyphylla of 102 colonies at Uva Island and Secas Islands. In the course of the 1982-83 El Niño event, M. platyphylla was severely bleached from January to March 1983, and by April 1983 no living colonies were found in the Gulf of Chiriquí (Glynn and de Weerdt 1991). Glynn and de Weerdt (1991) reported M. platyphylla to be locally extinct because they did not find any live colonies after almost 9 years intensive searching in likely habitats within their former range in the Gulf of Chiriquí.

Since 1983, M. platyphylla has not been seen or reported alive in the Gulf of Chiriquí or anywhere else in the Eastern Tropical Pacific region (Glynn 1997, Glynn and Ault 2000, Glynn et al. 2001, Guzman 2004).

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 more resilient to some of the threats faced by corals and therefore population decline is estimated using the percentage of destroyed reefs only (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 of 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. See the Supplementary Material for further details on population decline and generation length estimates.
For further information about this species, see Corals_SupportingDoc.pdf.
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Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:In the Indo-Pacific, this species is most abundant in shallow reef habitat at depths of less than 15 m. In the Gulf of Chiriquí, M. platyphylla has been reported to occur at depths of 2 to 18 m on coral reefs and coral communities.

Millepora species are generally found in inshore areas characterized by turbidity, and exhibit a tolerance for siltation. They often occur in clear offshore sites (Lovell pers. comm.).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): This genus is generally not found in the aquarium trade, but is sometimes collected for curio and jewellery trade. In 2005, 90 pieces of live Millepora platyphylla were exported for the aquarium and curio trade (E. Wood, pers comm.).

In the Indo-Pacific, this species is susceptible to bleaching, although less so than M. dichotoma (Fenner pers comm). It is also somewhat weedy and quick to take over disturbed habitats (Hoeksma pers comm). This species is also susceptible to bleaching in the Gulf of Chiriqui, Glynn and de Weerdt (1991) reported the elimination of M. platyphylla following the 1982-83 El Niño event. In the course of the 1982-83 El Niño event, M. platyphylla was severely bleached from January to March 1983, and by April 1983 no living colonies could be found in the Gulf of Chiriquí (Glynn and de Weerdt 1991); since then M. platyphylla has not been seen in the Eastern Tropical Pacific.

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. In addition to global climate change, corals are also threatened by disease, and a number of localized threats. The severity of these combined threats to the global population of each individual species is not known.

Coral disease has emerged as a serious threat to coral reefs worldwide and is 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 Great Barrier Reef 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.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: These non-scleractinian corals are listed under Appendix I and II of CITES. There are no records in the CITES database of exports of non-scleractinians by weight.

Parts of this species distribution fall within several Marine Protected Areas within its range. For example, based on the former distribution of M. platyphylla in the Eastern Tropical Pacific region, it was present in two protected areas: Panama: Coiba National Park and its Special Zone of Marine Protection, World Heritage Site, and Golfo de Chiriquí National Park.

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.

Having timely access to national-level trade data for CITES analysis reports would be valuable for monitoring trends this species. The species is targeted by collectors for the aquarium trade and fisheries management is required for the species, e.g., Marine Protected Areas, quotas, size limits, etc. Consideration of the suitability of species for aquaria should also be included as part of fisheries management, and population surveys should be carried out to monitor the effects of harvesting.

Citation: Guzmán, H. & Edgar, G. 2008. Millepora platyphylla. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T133595A3820225. . Downloaded on 25 June 2018.
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