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Distribution range and health status of the threaten staghorn coral Acropora cervicornis at Los Roques National Park

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Abstract

Over the past 30 years, Acropora cervicornis have experienced a decline throughout its distribution range in the Caribbean, to the point of falling within the critically endangered category of the IUCN Red List. Although, high mortality and shifts in its original distribution range have being noticed in this species at Los Roques during the last decade, the population status of this species has not been assessed. The aim of this study was to establish the status and actual range of distribution of the Acropora cervicornis population(s) at Los Roques as a prime base-knowledge for effective conservation strategies. For this, a total of 130 sites across the archipelago were surveyed. At each site, a 20x500 m geo-referenced area was covered by four observers to determine abundance, morphological description of patches and health status of this species. Morphological description was qualitatively assessed according to four categories: continuous (stands), dispersed (stands aggregations), scattered patches and isolated colonies. Abundance of each category was classified as abundant, common, uncommon and rare depending on their frequency of appearance. Our results indicate that A. cervicornis has a constrained distribution range within the archipelago, occurring in less than 40% of the surveyed sites. This species was most likely found in shallow and protected habitats (i.e., sand flats), although isolated colonies were also found at exposed areas. Disaggregated and dispersed patches were much common than continuous stands; whit white band disease occurring at most of the surveyed sites. Broken stands surrounded by rubble which indicate recent or old mortality of this species were common on the majority of surveyed sites. Thus, our results indicate that local conservation strategies are urgently needed for deterioration of A. cervicornis population(s) is becoming evident at Los Roques.
Distribution range and health status of the threaten staghorn coral
Acropora cervicornis at Los Roques National Park
Acropora cervicornis: A DEMISED CORAL SPECIES
Martínez
1
, S.; Cavada
1
, F.; Agudo
1
, E.; Cappelletto
2
, J. and Cróquer
1
, A.
1
Laboratorio de Ecología Experimental, Universidad Simón Bolívar. Venezuela
2
Grupo de Investigación en Mecatrónica, Universidad Simón Bolívar. Venezuela
e-mail: jmartinez.sh@gmail.com, fcavada@usb.ve, agudorama@gmail.com,
cappelletto@gmail.com, acroquer@usb.ve
References
During the 80´s, populations of Acropora palmata and A. cer vicornis
were wiped out by a combination of factors
1
. Today, both species
are critically endangered (CR) according to the IUCN criteria
2
.
While many studies have addressed the status of Acropora palmata
from molecular to seascape scales
3
, A. cervicornis has received less
attention; both locally and regionally. In Los Roques, one of the
healthiest reef systems of the Caribbean, the status of this species is
surprisingly anecdotic and remains obscure.
This project aimed to conduct the first and most extensive census for
this species to establish a baseline for future conservation plans in
Los Roques National Park.
DESIGNING A CENSUS FOR Acropora cervicornis
Continuous
Dispersed
Scattered patches
Isolated colonies
Acropora cervicorni s has a constrained distribution range within the
archipelago, occurring in 30% of the surveyed sites.
Disaggregated, dispersed patches and isolated colonies were the dominant
morphological types.
Continuous stands which were common in the 70’s; were only found at two
sites.
White band disease was ubiquitous among Los Roques A. cervicornis
population, independently of the mortality category.
The majority of the surveyed localities (42%) presented abundant and
common mortality.
Broken stands surrounded by rubble which indicate recent or old mortality
of this species were common on the majority of surveyed sites.
Dead stands of A. cer vicornis were found in multiple locations suggesting a
reduction of the distribution range of the species at Los Roques.
OUR FINDINGS: Acropora cervicornis is at risk
Implications of our results
(1) Sites with more continuous formations overlaps with locations heavily used by tourism.
(2) White band disease stills represents a threat for Acropora cervicornis in Los Roques.
(3) Local conservation strategies are urgently needed, for deterioration of Acropora cervicornis population (s) is becoming
1 - Hughes, T. P. (1994). Catastrophes, Phase Shifts, and Large-Scale Degradation of a Caribbean Coral Reef. 1Science, 265(5178), 15471551.
2 - Aronson, R. B., Bruckner, A., Moore, J., Precht, W. F., & Weil, E. (2008). Acropora cervicornis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version
2014.3. Retrieved from www.iucnredlist.org
3 - Jackson, J. B. C., Donovan, M. K., Cramer, K. L., & Lam, W. (2014). Status and Trends of Caribbean Coral Reefs : 1970-2012. Global Coral Reef
Monitoring Network, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland, 306.
Abundance and
partial mortality
Abundant (76%-100%)
Common (51% 75%)
Uncommon (26% 50%)
Rare (0% 25%)
Morphological
description
Logical framework
Sites
Acknowledgements
This research was funded by the Zoological Society of London through the
2013-2015 EDGE of Existence Fellowship program.
To our excellent field team: Aldo, Fran, Esteban, Cappe and Jean
Qualitative categories
Qualitative categories
THE FACTS: Acropora cervicornis distribution
THE FACTS: Acropora cervicornis health status
evident at Los Roques.
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