Acanthastrea echinata | UAE National Red List of Marine Species: Reef-building corals, cartilaginous fishes and select bony fishes

Acanthastrea echinata | (Dana, 1846)
Countries in Assessment
United Arab Emirates
Country ISO code(s)
Does the assessment cover a marine EEZ area(s)?
Scope (Assessment)
Taxonomic Group
Taxonomic Group Level 2
Assessed taxon level
Taxonomic Notes
Attention RLU: Please change the family from Mussidae to Lobophylliidae according to the WoRMS online database. C. Linardich 12Jan2022
Taxon distribution as listed in assessment
This species is widely distributed throughout the Gulf (Riegl et al. 2012), including the UAE (Riegl 1999) and has also been reported from UAE waters in the Sea of Oman (Bento 2009).Elsewhere, this species is widely distributed in the Indo-Pacific.
Habitats and Ecology
Ecological system type
Terrestrial system
Freshwater system
Marine system
Habitat details as listed in assessment
This species is found in most reef environments. This species has a large tolerance range for all reef environments, e.g. differing depths and light, including deep water and reef flats. This species is found to 50 m.The age of first maturity of most reef building corals is typically three to eight years (Wallace 1999) and therefore we assume that average age of mature individuals is greater than eight years. Total longevity is not known, but likely to be more than ten years. Furthermore, based on average sizes and growth rates, we assume that average generation length is 10 years, unless otherwise stated. Therefore, any population decline rates for the Red List assessment are measured over at least 30 years.
Is there a map available in assessment?
Assessed status
Asessment status in full
Assessment status abreviation
Assessment status criteria
Assessment rationale/justification
This coral is uncommon but widespread in UAE waters. It typically occurs in less environmentally extreme environments (e.g., eastern UAE) and seems to be particularly sensitive to coral bleaching. Detailed population decline data are not available for anywhere in the UAE, in part due to its overall rarity and patchiness. Limited species- or genus-specific data are available: it was observed in transects in Abu Dhabi in 2015, but has not been observed since. However, colonies are still present around offshore islands (such as Sir Bu Nair). The 2017 bleaching event caused substantial declines of even resilient coral taxa (e.g., Favia and Favites) and overall, coral mortality exceeded 70% in shallow-water habitats of Abu Dhabi. No additional decline data are available. As Abu Dhabi represents approximately half of its distribution, it is suspected that population declines have exceeded 30% over the past three generation lengths (30 years). Therefore, this species is listed as Vulnerable A2bc. No regional adjustment is made to the Vulnerable listing.
About the assessment
Assessment year
Assessors/contributors/reviewers listed
UAE National Red List Workshop
Affliation of assessor(s)/contributors/reviewers listed on assessment
Assessor affiliation specific
Criteria system
Criteria system specifics
IUCN v3.1
Criteria system used
Criteria Citation
IUCN. 2012. IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria: Version 3.1, Second edition. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. iv + 32pp pp. And IUCN. 2012. Guidelines for Application of IUCN Red List Criteria at Regional and National Levels: Version 4.0. Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK: IUCN. iii + 41pp.
Endemic to region
Endemism Notes
Is an endemic?: Not_assigned
Threats listed in assessment
In the Gulf, the major threats to corals include extreme and increasing temperature variability due to climate change, as well as direct destruction and increased turbidity caused by coastal construction (Riegl et al. 2012). Although bleaching thresholds in the Gulf are the highest recorded in the world (Riegl et al. 2012), bleaching events in the UAE have resulted in significant mortality (such as in 1996-1998, 2002, 2010 and 2017) and slow recovery (Burt et al. 2008). In Abu Dhabi, the most recent coral bleaching event resulted in nearly 95% of corals bleaching, and by April 2018, mortality reached 73% (Burt et al. 2019). This event resulted in mass mortality of even the more stress-tolerant corals such as poritids and merulinids (Burt et al. 2019). Coastal development, particularly large-scale offshore real estate developments and sedimentation associated with reclamation, has directly buried coral reefs in the Gulf (Burt et al. 2008, 2013; Burt 2014; Burt and Bartholomew 2019). In the Sea of Oman, UAE reefs have experienced major hurricanes and harmful algal blooms that caused high coral mortality and shifted community structure (Bauman et al. 2010, Foster et al. 2011).Globally, the major threat to corals is global climate change, in particular, temperature extremes leading to bleaching and increased susceptibility to disease, increased severity of ENSO events and storms, and ocean acidification.Coral disease has emerged as a serious threat to coral reefs worldwide and a major cause of reef deterioration (Weil 2006). The numbers of diseases and coral species affected, as well as the distribution of diseases have all increased dramatically within the last decade (Porter et al. 2001, Green and Bruckner 2000, Sutherland et al. 2004, Weil 2004). Coral disease epizootics have resulted in significant losses of coral cover and were implicated in the dramatic decline of acroporids in the Florida Keys (Aronson and Precht 2001, Porter et al. 2001, Patterson et al. 2002). In the Indo-Pacific, disease is also on the rise with disease outbreaks recently reported from the Great Barrier Reef (Willis et al. 2004), Marshall Islands (Jacobson 2006) and the northwestern Hawaiian Islands (Aeby et al. 2006). Increased coral disease levels on the GBR were correlated with increased ocean temperatures (Willis et al. 2004) supporting the prediction that disease levels will be increasing with higher sea surface temperatures. Escalating anthropogenic stressors combined with the threats associated with global climate change of increases in coral disease, frequency and duration of coral bleaching and ocean acidification place coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific at high risk of collapse.Localized threats to corals include fisheries, human development (industry, settlement, tourism, and transportation), changes in native species dynamics (competitors, predators, pathogens and parasites), invasive species (competitors, predators, pathogens and parasites), dynamite fishing, chemical fishing, pollution from agriculture and industry, domestic pollution, sedimentation, and human recreation and tourism activities. The severity of these combined threats to the global population of each individual species is not known.
Conservation Measures

Conservation measures:
Conservation measures notes:
Required conservation measures:

Scientific Name Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Acanthastrea echinata Animalia Cnidaria Anthozoa Scleractinia Mussidae Acanthastrea