[Coral-List] Recovering Acropora cervicornis populations in the Caribbean?

Austin Bowden-Kerby bowdenkerby at yahoo.com
Sat Sep 11 19:28:12 EDT 2010

To help answer Brittany's question,
After working on the restoration of Aropora cervicornis for the past 17 years, 
other than (possibly) the Broward County Florida population, I am beginning to 
think that there is no place where the species has recovered or increased 
greatly..  Some places do have relatively stable populations (although greatly 
reduced), but that is the exception.  For the vast majority of sites over its 
former range, the coral is locally extinct, or if present continues to just hang 
on or to decline slowly.  The members of the Caribbean Acropora Restoration 
group has thus far only identified two "Megapopulations", the one South of Coxen 
Hole, Roatan that Alina speaks of, and one at Punta Rusia, DR... but the DR 
population appears to be in rapid decline.  The Roatan population has its 
problems as well, among them is that most colonies are infested by damselfish 
that weaken the colony bases and make them more vulnerable to storms.  The 
question there is whether or not the corals that do survive a major hurricane 
would then be attacked by predators and subsequently wiped out, as happened on 
the North coast of Jamacia?  

In short, we have not yet found a single recovering population of A. cervicornis 
in the Caribbean, with a virtual lack of sexual recruitment, and with predation 
rates that often exceed growth rates among the remnant populations.   Indeed, 
it appears that the species continues to decline.  We would be thrilled to hear 
of any recovering or significantly large and healthy populations through the 
AGGRA database or elsewhere.  

As far as restoration of the species, we can grow the corals gangbusters in 
shallow nurseries (typically ten fold increase or more in biomass per year), but 
outplanting of second generation corals back to the reef is the real challenge, 
as they most often get attacked and killed by predators within months.  
Outplants in effective no-take areas do tend to do much better though.  This 
indicates that unless basic ecological processes are restored that even if/when 
sexual reproduction is restored, that most reefs will still not recover unless 
there is a basic improvement in their underlying health.  

To end on a positive note, there are some preliminary indications (yes, and a 
lot of hopes), that many of the surviving coral genotypes are developing 
some degree of resistance to bleaching and to disease.  At any rate, we need to 
rescue these remaining genetic treasures from their predators and to bring a bit 
of each into more widespread reef nurseries so that they are not lost.  While 
more of the results need to be published, there is an overwhemling agreement of 
conlusions and lessons learned among those of us doing restoration work in the 
region (Belize, Honduras, Jamaica, Puerto Rio, DR, Florida, etc.), this was the 
topic of the recent meta-analysis by Diego Lirman and team at UM that many of us 
participated in.  If you are actively involved in restoration of either of the 
two Caribbean Aropora species, please write me to join our group. 

Austin Bowden-Kerby, PhD
Corals for Conservation
Just World Partnerships, UK
Suva, Fiji (679) 331-3377 
Cell (679) 938-6437 

Date: Fri, 10 Sep 2010 12:45:09 -0400
From: "Szmant, Alina" <szmanta at uncw.edu>
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Recovering Acropora cervicornis populations
    in    the    Caribbean
To: Brittany Huntington <brittanyhuntington at gmail.com>,
    "coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov" <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
There are extensive thickets on the south side of Roatan (Smith's Bank) that 
have apparently never been affected by anything major giving the size/thickness 
of the branches and extensiveness of the buildup (ridges >2 m high)

Dr. Alina M. Szmant
Professor of Marine Biology
Center for Marine Science and Dept of Biology and Marine Biology
University of North Carolina Wilmington
5600 Marvin Moss Ln
Wilmington NC 28409 USA
tel:  910-962-2362  fax: 910-962-2410  cell: 910-200-3913

-----Original Message-----
coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov[mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov]
 On Behalf Of Brittany Huntington
Sent: Thursday, September 09, 2010 3:26 PM
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: [Coral-List] Recovering Acropora cervicornis populations in the 

Curious to know if anyone is aware of populations of  *Acropora cervicornis
*populations recovering naturally (i.e. without restoration help) on reefs
in the Caribbean in recent years.  AGGRA database is only current to 2004,
so if you know of a local population that is achieving decent cover of
staghorn coral since 2004, please let me know.

Thanks in advance,


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