National Park Service

South Florida/Caribbean I&M Network (SFCN)

Marine Invertebrates: Rare, Threatened, Endangered Monitoring

Black long-spined sea urchins.
Black long-spined sea urchins.

Protocol

The SFCN Coral Reef Monitoring Protocol is currently under development.

Resource Briefs, Reports, and Data

There are currently no additional SFCN resource briefs, reports, or data concerning this monitoring topic.

Importance/Issues

Critically imperiled or rare invertebrate species within the marine community are important indicators and subjects for monitoring, as they are significant drivers/architects of reef community and structure. Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata), once the primary reef building species, has declined >95% in some areas, dramatically effecting many marine and coastal processes. Black long-spined sea urchins (Diadema antillarum), once abundant herbivores, have significantly reduced populations, dramatically affecting herbivory of marine algae on coral reefs, which subsequently affects coral reef recruitment and growth processes. Black corals (Antipathes sp.) have been over-harvested for jewelry to the point that they are now considered rare and shallow water populations are gone.

Monitoring Objectives

What are the status and trends of these rare, threatened, and endangered species (Acropora spp., Antipathes spp., and Diadema antillarum) in relative abundance and distribution?

Approach

SFCN will monitor Diadema; link to park monitoring of Acropora spp., and conduct inventories of black coral.

Acropriid species
Due to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing the parks are actively conducting monitoring and reporting of these species. SFCN will work with parks to link to their reports and summaries. SFCN will also report findings of these species when encountered in other marine monitoring or inventories to the relevant park, but otherwise assumes ESA species-specific monitoring is the responsibility of the parks

Black long-spined sea urchin
Monitoring of Diadema antillarium is conducted along transects co-located along coral monitoring transects using a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) detailed in the coral monitoring protocol.

Black coral
Given the habitat requirements of this very rare species, (e.g., deep, low light) feasibilty of this monitoring is uncertain and the first step will likely be a survey of where these species are found in the parks. Such surveys will wait until after other SFCN marine monitoring protocols are complete,  but incidental locations are being gathered during other monitoring efforts. As black coral is subject to poaching, locations will not be released to the public.

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Last Updated: March 28, 2017 Contact Webmaster