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Acropora elegans

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CNIDARIA ANTHOZOA SCLERACTINIA ACROPORIDAE

Scientific Name: Acropora elegans
Species Authority: Milne Edwards & Haime, 1860

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A4cde ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-01-01
Assessor(s): Aeby, G., Lovell, E., Richards, Z., Delbeek, J.C., Reboton, C. & Bass, D.
Reviewer(s): Livingstone, S., Polidoro, B. & Smith, J. (Global Marine Species Assessment)
Justification:
This species has a smaller range and is uncommon throughout its range. It is susceptible to crown-of-thorns starfish predation, collection for the aquarium trade and extensive reduction of coral reef habitat due to a combination of threats. In addition it has a fairly low reproductive capacity. 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. Therefore, the estimated habitat degradation and loss of 41% over three generation lengths (30 years) is the best inference of population reduction and meets the threshold for Vulnerable under Criterion A4cde. It will be important to reassess this species in 10 years time because of predicted threats from climate change and ocean acidification.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: This species occurs in the central Indo-Pacific. It is found in the Philippines and Indonesia (Richards pers. comm.). It is also found in Milne Bay, Papau New Guinea and Ryukyu Japan (Turak pers. comm.).
Countries:
Native:
Australia; Indonesia; Japan; Papua New Guinea; Philippines; Taiwan, Province of China
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Native:
Indian Ocean – eastern; Pacific – northwest; Pacific – western central
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: This species is uncommon. It was found at two of six regions in Indonesia (Wallace et al. 2001).

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.
For further information about this species, see Corals_SupportingDoc.pdf.
A PDF viewer such as Adobe Reader is required.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: It is found on protected, steeply sloping reef edges and reef walls (Wallace 1999). This species is found from 30 to around 60 m.
Systems: Marine

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): This is a deeper water species that may not be as prone to bleaching and disease as other Acropora species. However, this species is uncommon and likely to also be threatened by the collection for aquarium trade. In addition has a fairly low reproductive capacity (Richards pers. comm.).

Acanthaster planci, the crown-of-thorns starfish, has been observed preferentially preying upon corals of the genus Acropora (Colgan 1987), but since this species is in deep water it is not likely to be affected by COTS. 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.

Threats include coral removal and harvesting for display in aquariums and for the curio-trade.

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.

Conservation Actions [top]

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.

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., MPAs, 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. Recommended conservation measures include population surveys to monitor the effects of collecting for the aquarium trade, especially in Indonesia.

Bibliography [top]

Aeby, G.S., Work, T., Coles, S., and Lewis, T. 2006. Coral Disease Across the Hawaiian Archipelago. EOS, Transactions, American Geophysical Union 87(36): suppl.

Aronson, R.B. and Precht, W.F. 2001 b. White-band disease and the changing face of Caribbean coral reefs. Hydrobiologia 460: 25-38.

Bruno, J.F., Selig, E.R., Casey, K.S., Page, C.A., Willis, B.L., Harvell, C.D., 2007. Thermal Stress and Coral Cover as Drivers of Coral Disease Outbreaks Sweatman, H., and Melendy, A.M. PLoS Biol 5(6): e124.

Colgan, M.W. 1987. Coral Reef Recovery on Guam (Micronesia) After Catastrophic Predation by Acanthaster Planci. Ecology 68(6): 1592-1605.

Fenner, D. 2003. Corals of Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea. Conservation International, Washington, DC.

Green, E.P. and Bruckner, A.W. 2000. The significance of coral disease epizootiology for coral reef conservation. Biological Conservation 96: 347-361.

Jacobson, D.M. 2006. Fine Scale Temporal and Spatial Dynamics of a Marshall Islands Coral Disease Outbreak: Evidence for Temperature Forcing. EOS, Transactions, American Geophysical Union 87(36): suppl.

Patterson, K.L., Porter, J.W., Ritchie, K.B., Polson, S.W., Mueller E., Peters, E.C., Santavy, D.L., Smith, G.W. 2002. The etiology of white pox, a lethal disease of the Caribbean elkhorn coral, Acropora palmata. Proc Natl Acad Sci 99: 8725-8730.

Porter, J.W., Dustan, P., Jaap, W.C., Patterson, K.L., Kosmynin, V., Meier, O.W., Patterson, M.E., and Parsons, M. 2001. Patterns of spread of coral disease in the Florida Keys. Hydrobiologia 460(1-3): 1-24.

Pratchett, Morgan S. 2007. Feeding Preferences of Acanthaster planci (Echinodermata: Asteroidea) under Controlled Conditions of Food Availability. Pacific Science 61(1): 113-120.

Stimson, J., Sakai, K., and Sembali, H. 2002. Interspecific comparison of the symbiotic relationship in corals with high and low rates of bleacing-induced mortality. Coral reefs 21: 409-421.

Sutherland, K.P., Porter, J.W., and Torres, C. 2004. Disease and immunity in Caribbean and Indo-Pacific zooxanthellate corals. Marine ecology progress series 266: 273-302.

Veron, J.E.N. 2000. Corals of the World. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville.

Wallace, C. C. 1999. Staghorn Corals of the World: a revison of the coral genus Acropora. CSIRO, Collingwood.

Wallace, C.C., Richards, Z., and Suharsono. 2001. Regional distribution patterns of Acropora and their use in the conservation of coral reefs in Indonesia. Pesisir and Lautan 4(1): 1-19.

Weil, E. 2004. Coral reef diseases in the wider Caribbean. In: E. Rosenberg and Y. Loya (eds), Coral Health and Diseases, pp. 35-68. Springer Verlag, NY.

Weil, E. 2006. Coral, Ocotocoral and sponge diversity in the reefs of the Jaragua National Park, Dominican Republic. Rev. Bio. Trop. 54(2): 423-443.

Wilkinson, C. 2004. Status of coral reefs of the world: 2004. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Queensland, Australia.

Willis, B., Page, C and E. Dinsdale. 2004. Coral disease on the Great Barrier Reef. In: E. Rosenber and Y. Loya (eds), Coral Health and Disease, pp. 69-104. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.

Wood, E.M. 1983. Reef Corals of the World: Biology and Field Guide. T.F.H. Publications Inc., Ltd., Hong Kong.


Citation: Aeby, G., Lovell, E., Richards, Z., Delbeek, J.C., Reboton, C. & Bass, D. 2008. Acropora elegans. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 20 October 2014.
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