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Ivory Bush Coral

Ivory Bush Coral

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Encyclopedia
The ivory bush coral is a U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service species of concern
Species of Concern
In wildlife conservation, Species of Concern is an informal term, not defined in the federal Endangered Species Act. The term commonly refers to species that are declining or appear to be in need of concentrated conservation actions. Many agencies and organizations maintain lists of these at-risk...

. Species of concern are those species about which the U.S. Government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration , pronounced , like "noah", is a scientific agency within the United States Department of Commerce focused on the conditions of the oceans and the atmosphere...

 (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).

Species Description


Oculina varicosa ranges from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina through the Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico is a partially landlocked ocean basin largely surrounded by the North American continent and the island of Cuba. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States, on the southwest and south by Mexico, and on the southeast by Cuba. In...

 and Caribbean
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

, though the main population of concern is off east-central Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

 where it forms unique thicket-type structures in 70-100 meters (230 to 330 ft) depth known as the "Oculina Banks". Colonies are arborescent
Arborescent
Arborescent is a term used by the French thinkers Deleuze and Guattari to characterize thinking marked by insistence on totalizing principles, binarism and dualism...

, with highly clumped, irregular bushy branches.

Ecology


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.

Conservation


Oculina coral reefs off Florida have been identified as essential fish habitat for federally-managed species. The Experimental Oculina Research Reserve
Experimental Oculina Research Reserve
The Experimental Oculina Research Reserve preserves the Oculina Banks, a reef of ivory bush coral off the coast of Fort Pierce, Florida. Oculina varicosa is a U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service species of concern. Species of concern are those species about which the U.S...

 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
Fishing
Fishing is the activity of trying to catch wild fish. Fish are normally caught in the wild. Techniques for catching fish include hand gathering, spearing, netting, angling and trapping....

 gear, including dredges, bottom long lines, trawl nets and anchor
Anchor
An anchor is a device, normally made of metal, that is used to connect a vessel to the bed of a body of water to prevent the vessel from drifting due to wind or current. The word derives from Latin ancora, which itself comes from the Greek ἄγκυρα .Anchors can either be temporary or permanent...

s despite supposed habitat-based protections.

Status Reviews


Current research is focusing on clarifying the uncertain taxonomy of this species.