Nature Blog Network

Monday, July 21, 2008

Crowns Of Trouble

Number reefs with (filled) and
without (open) A. planci outbreaks
in Open fishing and No-take zones.

I'm sure most people here are familiar with the crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci) which have been devastating reefs in the Indo-Pacific region, most infamously, the Great Barrier Reef. Some recent research out of AIMS points to no-take fishing zones as a control against the crown of thorns with no-take zones having only 26% of the number of outbreaks of similar areas outside the no-take zones. Strong argument for strong MPA's in a critical area of coral diversity!

The researcher, Hugh Sweatman, notes that the ecolological link between targeted fish and the crown-of-thorns starfish are unknown. Commercial and recreationally targeted fish are not known to prey on A. planci, but are mostly piscavores. The no-take zones thus likely have fewer smaller fish which prey on the worms and crustaceans which prey on juvenile starfish. Hugh is hoping to discover the exact linkage responsible for the results.

Fortunately, in related news, AIMS also reported that the most recent wave of the crown-of-thorns starfish appeared to be waning with fewer starfish surveyed last year and no new outbreaks last year in Swains Reefs, which has has outbreaks each year since 1985.

Sweatman, H. (2008). No-take reserves protect coral reefs from predatory starfish. Current Biology, 18(14), R598-R599.

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