Increasing densities of Pacific crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster cf. solaris) at Lizard Island, northern Great Barrier Reef, resolved using a novel survey method

Chandler, Josie F., Burn, Deborah, Caballes, Ciemon F., Doll, Peter C., Kwong, Sarah L.T., Lang, Bethan J., Pacey, Kai I., and Pratchett, Morgan S. (2023) Increasing densities of Pacific crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster cf. solaris) at Lizard Island, northern Great Barrier Reef, resolved using a novel survey method. Scientific Reports, 13 (1). 19306.

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Recurrent population irruptions of Pacific crown-of-thorns starfish (CoTS, Acanthaster cf. solaris) are among the foremost causes of coral mortality on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Early intervention during the initiation of new population irruptions represents the best opportunity to effectively manage this threat. However, current survey methods are not sufficiently sensitive to detect changes in CoTS densities during the early onset of population irruptions. Using scooter-assisted large area diver-based (SALAD) surveys, this study revealed increasing densities of CoTS at Lizard Island from 2019 to 2022. Inferred densities of adult CoTS (which account for distinct sets of observed feeding scars where starfish were not detected) increased from 4.90 ha−1 (± 0.85 SE) in 2019 to 17.71 ha−1 (± 2.3 SE) in 2022. A wide range of size classes were recorded suggesting that recruitment over several years is contributing to increasing densities. Importantly, the sustained density increases reported here denote that renewed CoTS population irruptions may soon become fully established at Lizard Island and more broadly in the northern GBR, especially without early intervention through effective population management.

Item ID: 81048
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2045-2322
Copyright Information: © The Author(s) 2023. Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Funders: ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CECRS)
Date Deposited: 21 Feb 2024 03:41
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180503 Control of pests, diseases and exotic species in marine environments @ 100%
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