Pinpointing reefs at risk

Population explosions of coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish are one of the major causes of coral loss on the Great Barrier Reef. Adult starfish feed on coral, and their larvae disperse among the 3500+ reefs that form the Great Barrier Reef, causing new outbreaks that result in a widespread decline of coral cover.

Our researchers have helped pinpoint reefs with high larval supply leading to elevated risk of starfish outbreaks on a reef. Larval dispersal can also highlight reefs that could promote the rapid spread of starfish outbreaks to other reefs in the region.

Since 2014, our researchers have helped the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, and Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators plan voyages for the boats responsible for eradicating and monitoring the starfish.

As a part of a National Environmental Science Program project, our researchers collaborate with managers to direct the allocation of time- and resource-intensive starfish control efforts.

This work has already helped focus the most recent efforts on predicted starfish hotspots and will help inform future management as the Australian Government prepares to augment the existing efforts by investing in additional eradication resources. 

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