Although Acropora sp are known for having some of the fastest coral growing abilities and creating long lasting habitats for fish and other marine life, the populations of various species have been in rapid decline in the past 3-4 decades.
Ranging from near threatened to critically endangered, species such as Acropora Florida, Granulosa or Palmata have been continually monitored in recent years, as scientists attempt to preserve, conserve or even rejuvenate some of the colonies that are rapidly deteriorating in regions where the ecosystem would rely on future coral reef populations in order to survive.
Acropora Sp – Colony Qualities and Properties
The variety of Acropora species currently known to exist can be quite significantly diverse, ranging from long, stag horn shaped species that can reach up to 2 meters in length to small, delicate colonies in the shape of flat plates and tables ranging between a few centimeters and more than 3 meters in diameter.
Most of these corals also have a unique relationship with various types of algae which live inside the coral, providing it with food and nourishment and inducing, through the process of photosynthesis, the production and growth of coral reefs.
Naturally, the process requires sunlight, and depending on the depth at which they develop, different types of Acropora sp have evolved anything from highly sensitive photosensitive surfaces to UV blocking agents in order to adapt to their specific environments.
Even individual species building colonies throughout a variety of reef formations often show a remarkable variety in terms of their growth speed, size, shape, length and depth. Among the more than 360 different Acropora species, both similarities and differences can be difficult to point out, however, there are a few important common aspects that most of them share, one of the most significant of which is their sensitivity and diminishing population growth resulting from a variety of different threats.
Significant Threats and Population Reduction
Dwindling acropora populations have resulted because of a number of different reasons, the most significant of which are bleaching – due to the loss of the coral’s zooxanthellae – and the recent global climate changes which have not only caused abnormally severe weather, damaging more fragile and exposed corals, but have also increased water temperatures to hostile values, threatening entire colonies to extinction.
Other causes, such as sedimentation, ocean acidification and eutrophication have also lead to decimating Acropora sp populations, and while restoration efforts continue to be funded worldwide for the purpose of protecting the most endangered types, some scientists maintain that current results are still not enough to ensure the long term survival of these corals.