Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Marine Science

Major Professor

Pamela Hallock Muller, Ph.D.

Committee Member

David Palandro, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kendra Daly, Ph.D.


Acropora cervicornis, Acropora palmata, historical presence, current distribution, GIS, Florida reef tract


Elkhorn and Staghorn corals (Acropora palmata, A. cervicornis) were listed as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2005. The threatened status of these species is unprecedented given the vital role they historically played as major constructors of western Atlantic and Caribbean coral reefs. The goal of my study was to evaluate the current extent of habitat of the two species using a database of reported in situ observations. From these observations, potential habitat maps were produced based on benthic substrata and depth parameters throughout the Florida reef tract using GIS software. Locations of 99% of A. palmata observations and 84% of A. cervicornis observations coincided with previously mapped reef or hardbottom habitat. These results indicate that potential habitat for A. palmata is currently well defined and that potential habitat for A. cervicornis is more variable than that for A. palmata.

This study provides a starting point in the creation of a revised critical habitat delineation for Acropora spp. in Florida. Using the mapped reef and hardbottom classifications throughout the Florida reef tract, probable habitat maps were generated using buffers that incorporated 95% and 99% of reported observations of colonies of Acropora spp. One of the most important differences between the previously generated critical habitat map and the new probable habitat map is observed in the southeast Florida region, where probable habitat extends further north than critical habitat and, thus, encompasses additional habitat for A. cervicornis and potentially A. palmata.