Localized outbreaks of Acanthaster planci at an isolated and unpopulated reef atoll in the Chagos Archipelago

Roche, R.C., Pratchett, M.S., Carr, P., Turner, J.R., Wagner, D., Head, C., and Sheppard, C.R.C (2015) Localized outbreaks of Acanthaster planci at an isolated and unpopulated reef atoll in the Chagos Archipelago. Marine Biology, 162 (8). pp. 1695-1704.

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Abstract

Outbreaks of the crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS), Acanthaster planci, have occurred at many locations throughout the Indo-Pacific and are a major contributor to widespread coral loss and reef degradation. The causes of outbreaks remain controversial, but are commonly attributed to anthropogenically elevated nutrients and/or over-fishing. If so, it seems unlikely that outbreaks would occur in reef systems that are largely isolated from anthropogenic disturbances. However, high densities of COTS were recently observed on reefs in the Chagos Archipelago, a remote group of atolls and banks within the central Indian Ocean, which experience very limited anthropogenic influence. Aggregations of COTS were first noticed at Eagle Island in 2012, which, although unquantified, appeared to be at outbreak levels, and very high densities (1624 km^−2) were subsequently recorded at Danger Island in 2013. While these islands are uninhabited by humans, it is possible that nutrient inputs result from upwelling zones around the Archipelago, or high densities of breeding seabirds. Among islands within the Great Chagos Bank, densities of the red-footed booby Sula sula ranged from 8 to 7888 individuals km^−2, with associated guano input ranging from 96 to 25,381 kg island^−1 year^−1. However, Danger and Eagle Islands where high COTS densities were recorded, had both high and low levels of guano production, respectively, which suggests that outbreaks may not be directly linked to guano nutrient enrichment. Other factors which might be responsible for intermittent COTS outbreaks should be considered in isolated reef systems such as the Chagos Archipelago.

Item ID: 40899
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-1793
Funders: ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
Projects and Grants: UK Government Darwin Initiative Grant
Date Deposited: 26 Oct 2015 01:36
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 50%
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