PURPOSE OF RESEARCH
Acropora palmata (Elkhorn coral) is a critical reef building species that has experienced severe decline in the Caribbean since the 1980s. We are interested in understanding the population status of this species in St. John USVI. Our work suggests that the population may be rebounding and we are following its recovery from Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
We have collected data on coral colonies in eleven bays since 2017. We collect data on colony depth, size, disease, fish predation, and the presence of corallivores associates. Between the three years we have sampled more than 6000 coral colonies.
Our data suggests that pre-hurricane Elkhorn Coral was rebounding from historic density (2004). While the hurricane had impacts, our most recent data suggests this population is recovering.
We plan to continue to monitor Elkhorn Coral in these bays for the next few years to examine patterns of recovery. We also hope to look at genetic relatedness in some sites.