[Coral-List] Reclaiming critical habitat space for the endangered coral specie, Acropora palmata

Timothy Swain tswain at fieldmuseum.org
Wed Dec 8 09:58:26 EST 2010

The survival of the species Acropora palmata is clearly threatened by
many challenges including disease, bleaching, pollution, and overall
habitat degradation.  And Palythoa caribaeorum may very well be a
competitor for space on the reef (this seems particularly likely for
sexually produced recruits).  However, it seems highly unlikely that
the presence of Palythoa caribaeorum is responsible for the decline of
 Acropora palmata, particularly because these zoanthids have been
present in large numbers since scientists began examining Caribbean
coral reefs.  The highest wave energy reef-crest environments have
been long been known as the "zoanthid zone" because of the plethora of
zoanthids present in these habitats and Palythoa caribaeorum is
prominent among the zoanthids that you will find there.

I think that is is much more likely that the zoanthids have simply
expanded their coverage to areas previously occupied by corals that
have been dying-off from Caribbean reefs for the last 30 years, and
removing the zoanthids to make substrate available to corals would do
little to aid the corals without first correcting the conditions that
lead to their demise in the first place.  Additionally, large-scale
removal of Palythoa caribaeorum sounds extremely destructive and
destabilizing to coral reefs.

Timothy D. Swain
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Northwestern University
2145 Sheridan Rd. Room A236
Evanston, IL 60208

Biodiversity Synthesis Center
Field Museum of Natural History
1400 South Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605

On Wed, Dec 8, 2010 at 3:58 AM, Jonathan E. Brown <jembrwn at yahoo.com> wrote:
> Subject: Reclaiming critical habitat space for the endangered coral specie,
> Acropora palmata
> Has habitat space limitation for the endangered coral specie, Acropora palmata,
> become a concern due to an increasing abundance of the zoanthid,
> Palythoa caribaeorum?  It appears that this encrusting zoanthid likes high wave
> energy environments and has become very abundant in St. Croix, USVI, to such an
> extent that it is competing for habitat space essential for A. palmata.  I
> believe this is a legitimate concern worthy of more examination.  I have
> pictures to share for those who are interested, please send an email request to
> jembrwn at yahoo.com.
> Furthermore, I have conducted a preliminary literature search via Google Scholar
> for past efforts in active removal of the zonathid, however, it yielded no
> relevant results.  What are the List members’ thoughts concerning active removal
> of zoanthids?  Would this option be feasible for sustaining critical habitat
> space for endangered corals?
> I look forward to your response.
> Jonathan E. Brown
> Division of Fish and Wildlife
> USVI Department of Planning and Natural Resources
> _______________________________________________
> Coral-List mailing list
> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list

More information about the Coral-List mailing list