Dynamics of an outbreak population of Acanthaster planci at Lizard Island, northern Great Barrier Reef (1995–1999)

Pratchett, Morgan S. (2005) Dynamics of an outbreak population of Acanthaster planci at Lizard Island, northern Great Barrier Reef (1995–1999). Coral Reefs, 24 (3). pp. 453-462.

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Abstract

Despite their significant influence on coral reef ecosystems, causes of population outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci L.) are still poorly understood. Essentially, outbreaks of A. planci could arise from either (1) a single mass recruitment event or (2) the progressive accumulation of starfish from multiple cohorts. This study explored fine-scale variation in the size, distribution, and abundance of A. planci, during an outbreak at Lizard Island in the northern Great Barrier Reef, to assess the mechanism by which the outbreak occurred. Densities of A. planci around Lizard Island increased very gradually from October 1994 until December 1996, then remained at around 1.0 starfish per 200 m2 until June 1998. The population of A. planci comprised individuals ranging in size from 11-cm to 62-cm diameter, representing individuals from multiple (at least four) different cohorts. These data suggest that the outbreak of A. planci at Lizard Island resulted from a prolonged build-up in starfish numbers through multiple successive recruitment events. This study shows that outbreaks of A. planci may arise independently of any sudden or substantial increase in rates of recruitment, such that any factor(s) responsible for the initial onset of outbreaks are likely to be very subtle and difficult to detect.

Item ID: 1458
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: corallivores, crown-of-thorns starfish, disturbance, long-term monitoring, population outbreaks
ISSN: 1432-0975
Date Deposited: 01 Jun 2007
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
Citation Count from Web of Science Web of Science 24
Downloads: Total: 6
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