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Climate change as an unexpected co-factor promoting coral eating seastar (Acanthaster planci) outbreaks
Uthicke, S.; Logan, M.; Liddy, M.; Francis, D.; Hardy, N.; Lamare, M. (2015). Climate change as an unexpected co-factor promoting coral eating seastar (Acanthaster planci) outbreaks. NPG Scientific Reports 5(8402): 8 pp.
In: Scientific Reports (Nature Publishing Group). Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 2045-2322, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Uthicke, S.
  • Logan, M.
  • Liddy, M.
  • Francis, D.
  • Hardy, N.
  • Lamare, M.

    Coral reefs face a crisis due to local and global anthropogenic stressors. A large proportion of the ~50% coral loss on the Great Barrier Reef has been attributed to outbreaks of the crown-of-thorns-seastar (COTS). A widely assumed cause of primary COTS outbreaks is increased larval survivorship due to higher food availability, linked with anthropogenic runoff . Our experiment using a range of algal food concentrations at three temperatures representing present day average and predicted future increases, demonstrated a strong influence of food concentration on development is modulated by temperature. A 2°C increase in temperature led to a 4.2–4.9 times (at Day 10) or 1.2–1.8 times (Day 17) increase in late development larvae. A model indicated that food was the main driver, but that temperature was an important modulator of development. For instance, at 5000 cells ml-1 food, a 2°C increase may shorten developmental time by 30% and may increase the probability of survival by 240%. The main contribution of temperature is to ‘push’ well-fed larvae faster to settlement. We conclude that warmer sea temperature is an important co-factor promoting COTS outbreaks.

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