News

Crown of thorns starfish could reach 60 million on GBR

An adult crown of thorns starfish can eat a dinner plate sized area of coral every day.
An adult crown of thorns starfish can eat a dinner plate sized area of coral every day. Jon Hanson

A NEW report commissioned by WWF Australia is warning the current crown of thorns starfish outbreak in the Great Barrier Reef could reach plague proportions. 

The report's author Dr Glen Holmes said crown of thorns numbers could reach 60 million, with devastating consequences for the reef. 

"It would be like a locust plague devastating vegetation," Dr Holmes said.

The outbreak has been underway for five years, with estimates putting current crown of thorns numbers between four and twelve million. 

Between 1985 and 2012, central and southern sections of the GBR lost over 60,000 hectares of live coral solely to crown of thorns.

 

Crown of thorns starfish outbreaks tend to follow this pattern. Primary outbreaks tend to occur between Cairns and Lizard Island before migrating south, feeding secondary outbreaks on well-connected reefs.
Crown of thorns starfish outbreaks tend to follow this pattern. Primary outbreaks tend to occur between Cairns and Lizard Island before migrating south, feeding secondary outbreaks on well-connected reefs. WWF

 

"To put that in perspective, that's the same as 60,000 football fields of coral eaten in less than 30 years," Dr Holmes said. 

An adult starfish can eat a dinner plate-sized patch of coral each day.

>> Report: moderate progress halting fertiliser run-off to reef

>> Great Barrier Reef about to suffer major bleaching

>> Attenborough draws attention to GBR at climate change summit

Crown of thorns are native to the Great Barrier Reef, but human influences have put increasing pressure on marine ecosystems. 

Research indicates outbreaks would naturally have occurred around once in 100 years, compared to today's rate of once every 14 to 17 years.

Around 400,000 crown of thorns have been removed from the Great Barrier Reef since 2012, but it's barely a dent in the millions devouring the reef. 

 

Increased levels of nitrogen, mainly from agriculture, is the main factor that drives outbreaks, as Crown of Thorns larvae feed on nutrients.  

This is why outbreaks often occur a few years after large flood events -- every time nutrient levels double, the number of crown of thorns larvae that survive to adulthood increase eight-fold. 

>> READ THE REPORT

Other factors include overfishing (which reduces crown of thorns' predator species), how close reefs are together and temperature increases from climate change. 

Research indicates nitrogen runoff will have to be reduced by 80% to bring crown of thorns back to their natural cycle.

The report recommends improving approaches to fertilising and educating growers on how to fertilise in the right place at the right time with the right amount to reduce excess.

"Achieving targets is well beyond the funds currently allocated by the government," the report says. 

The report is calling on governments to take action by:

  • Placing a cap on pollution to ensure new development does not result in more dirty water flowing to the Reef.
  • Support farmers to implement the latest practices which increase productivity and cut pollution.
  • Enforce laws for businesses who continue to pollute the Reef.
  • Invest to secure the farm practice and land use changes needed to deliver significant cuts to pollution.
  • Co-invest with industry in innovation to deliver the next wave of profitable pollution cutting practices.

Topics:  great barrier reef



How to do Eat Street the right way

EVERYTHING you need to know to get the most out of your Eat Street experience and to avoid a food coma when you’re only one stall deep.

Don’t go chasing waterfalls…find them on these drives!

The Scenic Rim is just one place nearby that you'll love.

BRISBANE isn’t all bright lights and city slickers.

Science Festival seriously awesome

Don't miss the World Science Festival Brisbane!

CALLING everyone who wants to see something totally cool.

Drink where the cool kids do this summer

There are a bunch of new bars open in Brisbane, make sure you're there!

CHECK out these new funky bars.

Discover Brisbane’s laneway gems

Brisbane's laneways will surprise you.

NOT all of Brisbane City is as it seems…

Top five things to experience this summer in Brisbane

Tangalooma is amazing if you're keen for a dive, kayak or swim.

THIS summer get out and explore your capital city.

Your boots are made for walking these tours

Brisbane Greeters tours are a great way to learn the local history of the city.

YOU don’t need a bike or bus for a seriously good tour of Brisbane.

PHOTOS: Gladstone's hottest models to fight for $50K prize chance

The MAXIM swim wear model search will be at Tannum Sands on Saturday.

HUGE BRAND name coming to Gladstone to pick and choose our best.

Gladstone's 10 worst streets for violent attacks revealed

VIOLENT ATTACK: Police have been called to a staggering 225 assaults in the past year.

ONE CROWDED street is by far the most dangerous.

Popular business man deeply regrets selling his name

Len Smith is now enjoying retirement after years of running the business.

WELL-KNOWN Gladstone man regrets selling his name with his business.

Local Partners

Un-American tale makes Lion weakest link in Oscars line-up

PSYCHOLOGY researchers find US films and actors most likely to win accolades at the Oscars.

PHOTOS: Gladstone's hottest models to fight for $50K prize chance

The MAXIM swim wear model search will be at Tannum Sands on Saturday.

HUGE BRAND name coming to Gladstone to pick and choose our best.

Living End, Grinspoon stars hit stage for American Idiot

Chris Cheney of The Living End stars in the Australian production of Green Days musical American Idiot at Brisbane's QPAC Theatre.

TAKE a look behind the scenes of Green Day's American Idiot musical

Samuel L Jackson dismisses La La Land ahead of Oscars

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in a scene from the movie La La Land.

Hollywood actor and Oscars voter says Denzel should win top gong

Live performance of Sci-fi classic to open Science Festival

Qld Symphony Orchestra perform live to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Festival will host A Live Presentation of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Former Family Matters stare accused of child abuse

Reginald VelJohnson, left, and Darius McCrary arrive at the TV Land Awards on Sunday, April 19, 2009 in Universal City, Calif.

Darius McCrary has been accused of child abuse

The trick homeowners are using to buy more properties

Chantelle Subritzky leaves her home each week for Airbnb guests.

Queenslanders are going down this path to help pay their mortgages

Stunning home blends South Pacific beauty with Orient style

Immaculate residence with two outdoor living areas

Gladstone's 20 cheapest properties on the market, all under $150K

DIRT CHEAP: 5/239 Sun Valley Rd, Kin Kora is selling for $140,000

PROPERTY sellers drop prices as houses and units sell for bargains.

$140k damage: landlord says property trashed, contaminated

He had what he calls "the tenants from hell"

Submarine, buses and 3000 tyres removed in $100K clean up

The list of things removed from this property is beyond astonishing

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!