Acropora spp. - Candidates for Endangered Species List

Tom Hourigan Tom.Hourigan at
Tue Feb 16 20:36:04 EST 1999

Dear Coral List,

In the U.S. Federal Register Notice January 15, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 10), the
National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) requested information on marine
Candidate Species for listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.  This
notice is not a proposal for listing; candidate species do not receive
substantive or procedural protection under the Endangered Species Act. The goal
of the candidate species program is to identify species as candidates for
possible addition to the List of Endangered and Threatened Species and encourage
voluntary efforts to help prevent listings. The full text of the Federal
Register notice can be found on the web at:


In this Notice, NMFS has proposed to add two coral species, elkhorn coral
(Acropora palmata) and staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis)  as candidates for
possible addition to the List of Endangered and Threatened Species under the
Endangered Species Act (FR Doc. 99-1011, 1-15-99).  These two species were among
the dominant corals in shallow-water Caribbean reef communities.  During the
last two decades, it appears that populations of A. cervicornis and A. palmata
have been greatly reduced throughout their range as a result of hurricane
damage, coral diseases, increased predation, hypothermia, boat groundings,
sedimentation, and other factors.  Losses are well documented at several sites
in U.S. waters, where populations declined during the 1980s by up to 96%. To
date, acroporid corals have not recovered to their former abundance, and
remaining populations may continue be deteriorate from natural and anthropogenic
factors.  The observed low rates of larval recruitment may hinder recovery of
these species, given continuing losses from coral diseases, predators, storms
and human impacts.  

To be listed under the Endangered Species Act, invertebrates must be shown to be
threatened  throughout the range of the species (in contrast to vertebrates,
which can be listed based on specific populations or the status in U.S.

NMFS would appreciate any information on these species that would support or
argue against inclusion on the candidate species list.  Such information could
include historic and current population sizes and distribution, assessments of
threats, and existing and future protective measures that may assist to recover
these species before listing under the ESA becomes necessary. 


We have also examined several other western Atlantic coral species that might
merit inclusion as Candidate species.  They were not included in the Federal
Register Notice since the information available was incomplete.  They include:

Acropora prolifera 
Dendrogyra cylindricus - pillar coral 
Dichocoenia stokessi  
Oculina varicosa

Other species, such as the Porites porites complex, P. astreoides, the
Montastraea annularis complex, M. cavernosa, Diploria strigosa, D. clivosa, and
D. labyrinthiformis appear to have undergone some declines at certain sites, but
do not appear as threatened as the Acropora spp, at this time.

We welcome any discussion and comments members of the coral list may have on the
inclusion of these or other coral species on the candidate species list.  Formal
comments shold be sent to the Chief of the Endangered Species Division in NMFS'
Office of Protected Resources at the address listed below.  

Thanks for your help!

Tom Hourigan 

Thomas F. Hourigan, Ph.D.                         Tel: (301) 713-2319
Marine Biodiversity Coordinator                   Fax: (301) 713-0376
Office of Protected Resources, NOAA/F/PR                  
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Marine Fisheries Service                        
1315 East-West Highway             
Silver Spring, MD 20910, USA      
                        E-mail: Tom.Hourigan at

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