Possible recovery of Acropora palmata (Scleractinia:Acroporidae) within the Veracruz Reef System, Gulf of Mexico: a survey of 24 reefs to assess the benthic communities
Recent evidence shows that Acropora palmata within the Veracruz Reef System, located in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico, may be recovering after the die off from the flooding of the Jamapa River and a dramatic cold water event in the 1970s. Since this decline, few surveys have documented the status of A. palmata. The 28 named reefs in the system are divided into 13 northern and 15 southern groups by the River. Between 2007 and 2013, we surveyed 24 reefs to assess the benthic communities. Seven of the 11 reefs surveyed in the northern group and all in the southern group had A. palmata. Colonies were typically found on the windward side of the reefs in shallow waters along the reef edges or crest. We also recorded colony diameter and condition along belt transects at two reefs in the north (Anegada de Adentro and Verde) and two in the south (Periferico and Sargazo), between 2011 and 2013. In addition, eight permanent transects were surveyed at Rizo (south). A total of 1 804 colonies were assessed; densities ranged from 0.02 to 0.28 colonies/m² (mean (±SD), colony diameter of 58 ± 73cm, and 89 ± 18% live tissue per colony). Total prevalence of predation by damselfish was 5%, by snails 2%, and <1% by fireworms, disease prevalence was <3%. Size frequency distributions indicated that all of the sites had a moderate to high spawning potential, 15-68% of the colonies at each site were mature, measuring over 1 600cm². The presence of these healthy and potentially reproductive colonies is important for species recovery, particularly because much of the greater Caribbean still shows little to no signs of recovery. Conservation and management efforts of these reefs are vital. Rev. Biol. Trop. 62 (Suppl. 3): 75-84. Epub 2014 September 01.