Pocillopora inflata 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Cnidaria Anthozoa Scleractinia Pocilloporidae

Scientific Name: Pocillopora inflata Glynn, 1999

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A4ce ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-01-01
Assessor(s): Chiriboga, A., Guzmán, H., Cortés, J., Hickman, C. & Edgar, G.
Reviewer(s): Livingstone, S., Polidoro, B. & Smith, J. (Global Marine Species Assessment)
This species is restricted to the eastern tropical Pacific and rare throughout its range. However, it is particularly susceptible to bleaching, disease, crown-of-thorns starfish predation, and extensive reduction of coral reef habitat due to a combination of threats. 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 34% over three generation lengths (30 years) is the best inference of population reduction and meets the threshold for Vulnerable under Criterion A4ce. 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:Pocillopora inflata is present on continental and oceanic islands of Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and Ecuador (Glynn et al. 2001).

Mexico: Gulf of California and nearby areas, Guerrero and Oaxaca (Reyes-Bonilla 2003, Reyes-Bonilla et al. 2005).
Costa Rica: Santa Elena (Cortés and Jiménez 2003); Bahia Culebra (Jiménez unpublished data, Cortés and Jiménez 2003); and San Pedrito Island, Islas Muricelago (Glynn 1999).
Panama: Saboga Island, and Contadora Island in the Gulf of Panama (Mate 2003, Glynn 1999), Pedro Gonzalez Island (Las Perlas) and Gulf of Chiriqui (Guzmán et al. in prep.).
Ecuador: throughout the Galapagos Archipelago (Glynn 1999).

According to Obura and Stone (2002), Pocillopora inflata is tentatively identified in the central tropical Pacific in the Republic of Kiribati.
Countries occurrence:
Colombia; Costa Rica; Ecuador; El Salvador; Guadeloupe; Honduras; Mexico; Nicaragua; Panama
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Pacific – eastern central; Pacific – southeast
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):10
Upper depth limit (metres):1
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The relative abundance of Pocillopora inflata has been categorized as:

Rare: in the Gulf of California and nearby areas, from Nayarit to Oaxaca, Mexico (Glynn and Ault 2000, Reyes Bonilla 2003), and Costa Rica (Glynn and Ault 2000).

Uncommon: in Panama, and in the Galápagos Archipelago, Ecuador (Glynn and Ault 2000).

According to Guzmán et al. (2004), P. inflata is a rare species at Coiba Archipelago, Panama; found in less than 25% of the studied sites. At seven sites in Las Perlas and 9 sites in the Gulf of Chiriqui (Guzmán et al. in prep.).

Glynn (1999) indicates that the abundance of pocilloporid species shows marked interannual fluctuation. At three sites in the Galápagos Islands (Cormorant Bay, Floreana; Northeast anchorage, Santa Fe; and Caleta Robinson, Santa Cruz) in surveys undertaken from 1993 to 1997, P. inflata was present during some surveys, but absent after 1 to 3 yr in subsequent surveys (Glynn 1999).

Although Pocillopora inflata is widely distributed in the Galapagos Islands, it has a low relative abundance (1.9 to 16.7% of all pocilloporid corals), as well as very low densities, ranging from 0.2 to 2.5 colonies per ha (Glynn 1999). According to Glynn (1999), this low abundance probably reflects the severe coral mortality (97%) during the 1982-83 ENSO event. Since them coral recovery has been negligible to slow (Glynn 1994); however, it is likely that all live colonies of P. inflata have recruited since 1983 (Glynn 1999).

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. 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:Pocillopora inflata occurs in coral reef and coral communities on shallow rocky substrata (Guzmán pers. comm.), in depths of less than 10 m (Glynn 1999, Guzmán et al. in prep.). The species is usually found intermixed with other pocilloporid corals in Costa Rica and Panama (Jiménez and Cortés 2003, Guzmán et al. in prep.).

According to Glynn (1999), Pocillopora inflata may have evolved within the eastern Pacific and is presently distributed widely over much of the region. Furthermore, the presence of a large dead colony of P. inflata in the Galápagos Urvina Bay uplift, where a coral community was elevated during a volcano eruption in 1954, indicates that P. inflata is not a recent ENSO-associated immigrant from the Indo-West Pacific; this species has been present in the Galápagos Islands for more than four decades (Glynn 1999).

Amongst the reef building corals in the Eastern Tropical Pacific region, pocilloporid species have the fastest growth rates (Guzmán and Cortes 1993). The growth rates of Pocillopora inflata range between 2.0 and 4.4 cm per year, with a mean growth rate of 3.15 cm per year at Bahia Culebra Costa Rica (Jiménez and Cortés 2003, Cortés and Jiménez 2003b).

Pocillopora inflata is the only pocilloporid coral observed to spawn (Glynn 1999). The spawning event occurred on the morning (07:30 and 10:30 hours) of 22 March 1998 in Saboga Island, Panama (Glynn 1999). Among the six observed colonies, one spawned eggs and five produced sperm (Glynn 1999).

Pocilloporid corals, presumably including P. inflata, are generally amongst the strongest coral competitors with relatively high rates of calcification (Glynn 2001). However, coral species exhibiting high rates of calcification usually have relatively high mortality rates (Glynn 2000). Pocilloporid corals also usually predominate at shallow depths (1-15 m).

Pocillopora species are preyed on by at least nine groups of consumers. These vary in their consumption patterns, but include:

a) Species that bite off colony branch-tips: pufferfishes (Arothron), parrotfishes (Scaridae), filefishes (Monacanthidae) (Glynn 2002).

b) Species that scrape skeletal surface: hermit crabs (Trizopagurus, Aniculus, and Calcinus) (Glynn 2002).

c) Species that remove tissues but leave the skeleton intact: gastropods (Jenneria pustulata and Quoyula sp. (Glynn 2002)), buterflyfishes, angelfishes, damselfish (Stegastes acapulcoensis), and Acanthaster planci (Glynn 2002).

d) Species that abrade tissues and skeleton: Eucidaris galapagensis (Glynn 2001).

Jenneria and Acanthaster can kill whole, relatively large (approx. 30 cm in diameter) colonies of Pocillopora (Glynn 2002). Pocilloporid species can have crab (Trapezia sp.) and alpheid shrimp as mutualistic symbionts that protect the coral from the attack of the crown-of-thorns sea star A. planci (Glynn 2001).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Pocilloporid species as well as other major reef building corals within the Eastern Tropical Pacific region (Porites, Pavona, Gardinoseris) catastrophically declined in the Galápagos Archipelago and Cocos Island after 1983. Recovery observed since that time was in large part nullified by the 1997-98 ENSO event (Glynn 2000). According to Glynn et al.(1988), pocilloporid coral mortality in the eastern Pacific was high, ranging from 51% at Caño Island to 76-85% in Panama and 97-100% in the Galápagos Islands (Glynn et al 1988).

Glynn (1994) suggests that the sea urchin Eucidaris galapagensis (syn. E. thouarsii) provides important biotic control of pocilloporid reef development. This urchin is the most persistent corallivore in the Galapagos Islands, where it is often observed grazing on pocilloporid corals (Glynn 2001).

Overfishing is probably responsible for some ecological imbalance on coral reefs that could prolong recovery from other disturbances (Glynn 2001). Moreover, Edgar et al. (unpublished manuscript) reported that over-exploitation of sea urchin predators (lobsters and fishes), along with ENSO, has a major effect in the condition and distribution of corals in the Galapagos Islands, by increasing the grazer and bioerosion pressure on corals.

Coral mortality associated with phytoplankton blooms has been reported from Caño Island, Costa Rica, and Uva Island, Panama, in 1985; where mortality of pocilloporid species (especially P. capitata and P. elegans) was in the order of 100% and 13% respectively at 3 m depth (Guzmán et al. 1990).

According to Glynn (2001), pocilloporid coral harvesting is an important threat in the Eastern Tropical Pacific region, especially along the continental coast. This activity has virtually eliminated pocilloporid corals from Acapulco (Mexico), Bahia Culebra (Costa Rica), Taboga Island (Panama), and parts of the coast of Ecuador (Glynn 2001). Nevertheless, this activity is now largely excluded from Costa Rica and Panama (Guzmán pers. comm.).

Bryant et al. (1998), based on four anthropogenic factors (coastal development; overexploitation and destructive fishing practice; inland pollution and erosion, and marine pollution), estimated a high threat to coral reefs along the coasts of Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia. High levels of siltation caused by accelerated coastal erosion have degraded coral reefs in Costa Rica, Colombia and Ecuador (Glynn 2001)

Other threats include: a) predation principally by Acanthaster and Jenneria (Glynn 2002, 1994, 2000), and b) harvesting for the curio trade, an activity that has virtually eliminated pocilloporid corals from Acapulco (Mexico), Bahia Culebra (Costa Rica), Taboga Island (Panama), and parts of the coast of Ecuador (Glynn 2001).

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.

Citation: Chiriboga, A., Guzmán, H., Cortés, J., Hickman, C. & Edgar, G. 2008. Pocillopora inflata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T133309A3682485. . Downloaded on 21 May 2018.
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