In another bit of good news to start off the new year, it was recently announced that a huge field of Caribbean staghorn coral was discovered right off of the coast of South Florida. The Caribbean staghorn coral, Acropora cervicornis, is a protected species which has seen its abundance dramatically decline over much of its range along with the Caribbean elkhorn coral, A. palmata.
Nearly 40 acres of staghorn corals have been documented in a huge network of patch reefs stretching from Miami-Dade to Broward counties and they’re so close to shore too. The report even mentions specific patches of Caribbean staghorn coral between 300 and 500 yards off of specific intersections of the coastal cities located in those counties.
Local divers have known that some patches of Acropora cervicornis could be found in those locations but the report of the surveys is the first publication to document the incredible extent to which the corals can be found. Further south in Florida many stony corals are really struggling due to environmental degradation or to the extremes of low and high temperatures that have occurred in shallow waters in the last decade.
Perhaps this network of patch reefs of staghorn coral is part of the northerly shift in range extension for the species which should see other corals make the trend as well, hopefully. It’s simply astonishing that such a huge standing crop of this threatened coral has been living and growing so close to shore with hardly anyone really knowing it was there.
The “discovery” of this extensive population of Caribbean staghorn coral is a great antidote to all the news of how much corals are suffering all over the world. Surely more surveys of this large living coral reef will be undertaken in the future and we hope to have the opportunity to personally visit this reef very soon. [SunSentinel]