Ivory bush coral
|Ivory Bush Coral|
The ivory bush coral (Oculina varicosa) is a U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service species of concern. Species of concern are those species about which the U.S. Government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Marine Fisheries Service, has some concerns regarding status and threats, but for which insufficient information is available to indicate a need to list the species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Oculina varicosa ranges from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina through the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, though the main population of concern is off east-central Florida where it forms unique thicket-type structures in 70-100 meters (230 to 330 ft) depth known as the "Oculina Banks". Colonies are arborescent, with highly clumped, irregular bushy branches.
Over 300 species of invertebrates have been found living in the branches of O. varicosa (Reed 2002), so it serves as an important keystone species and habitat.
Oculina coral reefs off Florida have been identified as essential fish habitat for federally managed species. The Experimental Oculina Research Reserve preserves the Oculina Banks, a reef of Oculina varicosa off the coast of Fort Pierce, Florida.
The known and documented threat in the Oculina Banks area is damage from mechanical fishing gear, including dredges, bottom long lines, trawl nets and anchors despite supposed habitat-based protections.
Current research is focusing on clarifying the uncertain taxonomy of this species.
- NOAA Fisheries Service, Office of Protected Resources. "Proactive Conservation Program: Species of Concern". Retrieved 2009-02-18.
- Reed JK, Koenig CC, Shepard AN, and Gilmore Jr RG (2007). "Long Term Monitoring of a Deep-water Coral Reef: Effects of Bottom Trawling.". In: NW Pollock, JM Godfrey (Eds.) the Diving for Science…2007. Proceedings of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences (Twenty–sixth annual Scientific Diving Symposium). Retrieved 2008-06-16.
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