Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches, Lectures

Recovery plan for Elkhorn and Staghorn Corals

Event Name/Location

37th Scientific Meeting of the Association of Marine Laboratories of the Caribbean, Curacao, the Netherlands, May 18-22, 2005

Presentation Date


Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Presenters / Authors

Alison L. MouldingFollow
J. A. Moore


Acropora palmata, Acropora cervicornis, Endangered Species Act, Recovery, Management, Coral


In 2006, elkhorn coral Acropora palmata and staghorn coral A. cervicornis were listed as threatened species under the United States Endangered Species Act (ESA), and in March 2015, NOAA Fisheries adopted a recovery plan for the two coral species. The recovery plan identifies a strategy for rebuilding and assuring the long-term viability of elkhorn and staghorn corals in the wild, allowing ultimately for the species’ removal from the list of threatened and endangered species. The plan contains ten criteria which are targets by which to gauge species’ recovery. The three population-based criteria provide a metric for abundance, genetic diversity, and recruitment; the seven threat-based criteria assess abatement of threats including disease, climate change, loss of habitat, land-based sources of pollution, predation, breakage, and inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms. Twenty-four actions, most with a number of associated sub-actions, provide direction for achieving the recovery criteria. The recovery actions include research and monitoring, reduction or elimination of threats and enhancement of the population by actively putting corals back on the reef. Removing elkhorn and staghorn corals from the list of threatened and endangered species can only occur if the species are recovered throughout their ranges. Thus, population abundance and trend information from the greater Caribbean is important for determining status of elkhorn and staghorn corals under the ESA. Although recovery plans are developed under U.S. law, the recovery plan for elkhorn and staghorn corals can be used as a guide for conservation of the species in other countries. Because threats to elkhorn and staghorn corals are both local and global in nature, recovery will require concerted effort on the part of domestic and international communities.

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Also presented at the 13th International Coral Reef Symposium, Honolulu, Hawaii, June 19-24, 2016.