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Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata)

Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 152511924

Distribution, abundance and conservation status of the Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata, Lamarck, 1816) at “La Laja” coral reef, Veracruz, Mexico

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation (Project No. 152511924) - Elkhorn coral - Awarded $12,500 on February 01, 2016

The Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) is a Critically Endangered stony coral species distributed in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, Florida and the Bahamas. Over the past 30 years a strong population reduction has been registered due fundamentally to the white-band disease. Other threats include thermal-induced bleaching, tropical storms and hurricanes, as well as the loss of habitat due to algal overgrowth and sedimentation, the effects of marine debris, ship groundings, anchor and artisanal fishing gear damage and unregulated human recreation and tourism activities. At national scale, the species is listed as "Under Special Protection" and during 2008 the Mexican Federal Authorities established the Action Plan for Conservation of the Elkhorn (A. palmata) and Staghorn (A. cervicornis) corals.

The project focuses on the reef known as "La Laja", off the coast of Veracruz, in the Gulf of Mexico. The structure and biological composition of the "La Laja" is not well known. Some A. palmata colonies of different size and at different depths (< 8 m) had been observed and, although their extension remains unknown, no diseases were observed at first glance. It is urgent to start a systematic monitoring program in this reef in order to identify any potential threat, bearing in mind that in neighboring reefs the white-band disease and some other illness have been recorded.

The objectives of the project are:

- To characterize "La Laja" coral reef.
- To estimate the distribution, abundance and conservation status of A. palmata.
- To develop an awareness-raising campaign with local communities located in the reef area of influence.

Activities include:

- Surface surveillance and characterization of "La Laja" coral reef.
- Monitoring and gathering of biological data of A. palmata colonies.
- Analysis of collected data.
- Awareness-raising campaign.
- Workshops for local communities.
- Writing and publishing of the results in a peer-reviewed journal.

The project is developed by the collaboration of the Asociación Chelonia, international conservation and scientific NGO, and the Universidad Veracruzana.

Project documents