Demographic Monitoring of the Threatened Staghorn Coral, Acropora cervicornis

Grant Winners

  • David S. Gilliam, Ph.D. – Oceanographic Center
  • Elizabeth A. Larson, M.S. – Oceanographic Center
  • Nicole D'Antonio, B.S. – Oceanographic Center


  • Richard Dodge, Ph.D. – Oceanographic Center


Award Winners

The staghorn coral, Acropora cervicornis, over the past three decades has undergone dramatic population decreases throughout the greater Caribbean. To formally initiate actions to conserve and potentially promote recovery of this species in US waters, Acropora cervicornis was designated as a threatened species under the US Endangered Species Act in May 2006. Successful conservation and restoration efforts require information on the factors which are affecting current population size and health. An A. cervicornis demographic monitoring project has been established offshore Broward County, FL providing information on the current status and health of what is potentially the northern most significant population in the US. In order to fully understand the complex dynamics of this species these efforts need to expanded across the species range. We are currently proposing to expand these monitoring efforts within Florida examining populations in the Florida Middle Keys and the Dry Tortugas National Park. Data will be collected using methods that have been developed during the Broward County effort. We will be utilizing 7m radial plots to capture changes in population density and growth and the prevalence of disease and predation as factors affecting overall health of these populations. Data will be analyzed using univariate (multiple linear regressions and repeated measure analyses) and multivariate statistical techniques (similarity indices and non-metric multi-dimensional plots). These types of analysis will facilitate the identification of population differences among these three Florida subregions and the contribution of different factors influencing their health. In addition to providing scientists and resource managers with critical information needed to develop conservation and management plans, this project will also assist with the development a species specific monitoring protocol which can be used across the species range.