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Posts Tagged ‘Staghorn Coral’

Miami Beach Staghorn Coral Survey – Pre & Post-Hurricane Irma

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

One of the last tasks we took on before securing our laboratory prior to Hurricane Irma was check on the health of a community of endangered staghorn corals (Acropora cervicornis) just offshore Miami Beach. This community is one of the few remaining nearshore populations of these corals in Florida, and has proven to be more resilient than populations further south in Biscayne National Park, which have suffered from diseases in recent years. Because these staghorn corals along Miami Beach are growing on flat, hard seafloor, we knew that they were going to be subjected to significant wave energy during Hurricane Irma.

When we finally had a chance to survey the damage this past week, we sadly found that most of the staghorn colonies had been smashed to bits. Fortunately, many of the broken pieces of coral survived the maelstrom and have already begun cementing themselves back down to the sea floor and developing healthy new growth tips. While hurricanes can be exceptionally damaging to coral reefs, asexual fragmentation of corals due to these storms is also an important way they can colonize large areas of substrate. As unfortunate as it is to see this damage, based on what we observed post-hurricane offshore Miami Beach, we can expect new colonies to form, and thickets of these endangered corals will return once again.

Fort Lauderdale Beach

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Caribbean Staghorn Coral (Acropora cervicornis)

A close-up of a staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) branch tip. Note the healthy coral polyp extension.

This past Saturday I took my friend Jeremy (of and his wife on a shore dive off Fort Lauderdale Beach.  I had heard rumors that decent stands of the endangered staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) were abundant in this area.  Despite (relatively) poor visibility, we found these rumors to be correct.  Acropora cervicornis was one of, if not the most, common stony corals only 250-350 meters offshore this popular sunbathing mecca in only 6-7 meters of water.  It is amazing to see how even a small ‘bush’ of A. cervicornis can attract dozens of small fish seeking refuge amongst its branches.  It is clear that the widespread die-off of this single species has had a detrimental impact on the entire ecosystem of the Florida’s coral reefs. I can only imagine what the reefs in the Florida Keys were like 30 years ago, as today most are just lumpy humps of rock dominated by massive coral heads,  gorgonians, and macroalgae.  The interstices of A. cervicornis branches provides a habitat that is unmatched.  Seeing an abundance of A. cervicornis so close to shore in Fort Lauderdale is encouraging…