Two major back-to-back bleaching events severely affected elkhorn coral in the Florida Keys in 2014 and 2015. Elkhorn coral populations once dominated the southeastern region of the Northern hemisphere. Since 1980, an estimated 90-95% of elkhorn coral has been lost. Acroporids are keystone or foundation species in the Caribbean, branching and fast-growing, and therefore provide habitat and shelter for hundreds of other marine species, including the commercially important Spiny lobster. ity, predators, comtitpeion, disease, sound, and physical abrasion and shading by large, ... Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata, a formerly domi-nant species listed as threatened under the U.S. This turbidity increase can result from a myriad of issues like untreated wastewater and beach erosion activities. Elkhorn coral facts puts diseases as one of the most common reasons for the decline of the coral. Implement ecosystem-level actions to improve habitat quality and restore keystone species and functional processes such as herbivory to sustain adult colonies and promote successful natural recruitment in the long term. These lesions grow quickly, and can grow up to 10.5 cm2 per day, causing tissue loss of 2.5 cm2 per day. NOAA Fisheries supports a program to respond to these events in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands where tens of thousands of corals have been rescued. For collection, about 5-10 healthy colonies of reproductive size should be located in a site that is logistically feasible for night diving. Successful reproduction rates are low in Elkhorn coral which limit the growth of new colonies. NOAA Fisheries is part of the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program which brings together expertise from across NOAA for a multidisciplinary approach to understanding and conserving coral reef ecosystems. This funding allowed for the creation of a network of coral nurseries throughout the waters off the coast of southern Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands for the recovery of Elkhorn coral. Silt (fine soil) smothers coral when it washes off the land from farm fields, roads and building sites. These colonies grow 5-10 cm (2-4 inches) each year, reaching maximum size in 10 to 12 years. In 2005, the Upper Florida Keys population suffered similar losses due to the 2005 hurricane season. Conducting spawning observations and collection of eggs and sperm for culturing elkhorn coral larvae. Example of predator-prey relationships in a coral reef include sharks (predator) and dolphins (prey), starfish (predator) and snails (prey), and barracudas (predator) and black triggerfish (predator). 6 Minute Quiz 6 Min. These outbreaks may be a result of overfishing of the crown-of-thorns starfish’s primary predator, the giant triton or they may be a natural phenomenon. We use a variety of innovative techniques to study, protect, and restore these threatened corals. At each survey, size and condition of each sampled coral colony was estimated as well as the number and size of its resident snails. The gametes are released for only a few nights by broadcast spawning eggs and sperm into a water column. We are committed to the protection and recovery of elkhorn coral through implementation of various conservation, regulatory, and restoration measures. Other threats to elkhorn coral are ocean acidification (decrease in water pH caused by increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere) that makes it harder for them to build their skeleton, unsustainable fishing practices that deplete the herbivores (animals that feed on plants) that keep the reef clean, and land-based sources of pollution that impacts the clear, low nutrient waters in which they thrive. Staghorn corals are also vulnerable to certain predators, like the crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci), which have proliferated since the 1970s. #1 elkhorn coral #15 purple sea fan #18 Atlantic blue tang #24 brain coral #25 purple sea sponge #29 staghorn coral #32 queen conch #39 orange sea sponge Now scroll to the eighth and final image, with the caption Coral Reef Illustration Key. Researchers monitoring coral reef to assess ecosystem changes. Coral colonies, preparing to build ... For branching corals — like the protected elkhorn and staghorn — scientists are anticipating them to spawn two to five nights after the full moon, August 15 through 18. Determine coral health risk factors and their inter-relationships and implement mitigation or control strategies to minimize or prevent impacts to coral health. [4], There are four critical habitats for the Elkhorn coral that are essential to the conservation of this species. Photo by Phil Dustan. Impacts from land-based sources of pollution—including coastal development, deforestation (clearing a wide area of trees), agricultural runoff, and oil and chemical spills—can impede coral growth and reproduction, disrupt overall ecological function, and cause disease and mortality in sensitive species. Description. The BRT determined that Elkhorn coral was not at risk for extinction, but could become so in the foreseeable future because its population sizes were low and the severity of threats was predicted to increase. The persisting population decline was potentially attributable to several increasing threats such as ocean acidification and levels of thermal stress. NOAA Fisheries and partners have ramped up population enhancement of elkhorn corals. Individual colonies can grow to at least 6 feet in height and 12 feet in diameter. Under the ESA, NOAA Fisheries is required to develop and implement recovery plans for the conservation and survival of listed species. NOAA Fisheries scientists observed bleached elkhorn corals at various sites in the Upper Florida Keys during a period of unusually warm water temperatures (warmer than 87.8°F) in mid-to-late August 2014. Elkhorn corals are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Internet Explorer lacks support for the features of this website. It, along with staghorn coral and star corals (boulder, lobed, and mountainous), built Caribbean coral reefs over the last 5,000 years. The Adopt A Coral program is designed to provide a tangible way to engage in Reef Renewal Foundation Bonaire’s restoration efforts. This broad scale monitoring program can give useful information about status and trends for coral species that are abundant enough to be detected in this survey. Credit: NOAA. [16], Untreated wastewater also contains high levels of nutrients, which increase macroalgae growth. They thrive in shallow water, and it is the top metre of living reef that provides the most shoreline protection.