Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract A large survey program was conducted during 1985/1986 to determine the extent of activity of the crown-of-thorns starfish, Acanthaster planci, and its broad effects on the coral communities of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). The perimeters of 228 reefs (about 9% of reefs in the GBR system) were surveyed within 1 year using rapid survey, manta tow techniques. These reefs encompassed the broad latitudinal and longitudinal gradients within the GBR. Approximately 27% (62 reefs) of the reefs surveyed had recently experienced (18%), or were experiencing (9%), an outbreak of the crown-of-thorns starfish. These outbreaks were mainly confined to reefs in the central third of the GBR (between Lizard Island and Townsville) and had affected, to varying degrees, approximately 65% of the reefs surveyed within this region. A greater proportion of mid-shelf reefs had experienced outbreaks than outer-shelf reefs, although this difference was not statistically significant. Of the small number of inner-shelf reefs surveyed, none had been recently affected by an outbreak. Large active outbreaks of starfish were reported on many of the reefs located off Townsville while much smaller outbreaks were found on several reefs at the southern end of the GBR, in the Swain Reef complex. Almost 86% of reefs currently experiencing an outbreak had moderate to high coral mortality over at least a third of their perimeters. Only 10% of reefs with active outbreaks had high coral mortality over most of their windward and leeward margins. A similar proportion of reefs had low to moderate coral mortality over less than a third of their perimeters.
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