The starfish – a predator that feeds on corals by spreading its stomach over them and using digestive enzymes to liquefy tissue – were discovered in large numbers by the researchers in reefs in Halmahera, Indonesia, at the heart of the Coral Triangle, which lies between Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. It is considered the genetic fountainhead for coral diversity found on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Ningaloo and other reefs in the region.
Scientists fear the outbreak is caused by poor water quality and could be an early warning of widespread reef decline.
Recent surveys of Halmahera by the Wildlife Conservation Society and ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies confirmed that while Halmahera’s reefs are still 30-50 percent richer than nearby reefs, some areas were almost completely destroyed.
“The main cause of damage to the corals was the Crown of Thorns Starfish,” Dr. Andrew Baird of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University. “We witnessed a number of active outbreaks of this coral predator. There was little to suggest that the reefs have been much affected by climate change as yet: the threats appear far more localized.”
The team also saw first-hand evidence of recent blast-fishing, an extremely destructive fishing practice that uses explosives. According to locals this accompanied a break down of law and order following communal violence in 2000-2003. During the same time many reef lagoons were mined of their corals for use in construction, an activity encouraged by the Indonesian military.
“This is clearly a complex human environment and effective management of the marine resources must address the needs of communities. It will also be vitally important to understand the causes of conflict among communities and address them,” says Dr Stuart Campbell, Program Leader for the Wildlife Conservation Society’s’ Marine Program in Indonesia.
The researchers pointed out that there were still healthy populations of certain species – and still time to reverse the damage.
“The good news is that the reef fish assemblages are still in very good shape” said Tasrif Kartawijaya from WCS-IP. “We saw Napoleon wrasse and bumphead parrot fish at almost every site. So these reefs have the capacity to recover if we can address the current threats.”
The Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) announced by six regional governments at the Bali Climate Change Conference recently offers hope for the reefs in the region, the researchers say. However, there are few details of how it will work and no mention of the fundamental role of research in the conservation program.
“We are disappointed research is yet to be fully considered in the CTI. The success of large marine parks, like the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, is largely due to the primary role of science plays in understanding what’s going on, so managers can make good decisions,” said Dr Baird.
“It isn’t enough just to document the diversity of the region. Large scale research is required to understand the Coral Triangle ecosystems and work out how best to respond to threats such as poor water quality and overexploitation,” Dr Campbell added.
Loss of habitat causes double damage to species richness
02.04.2019 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
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25.03.2019 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)
The human eye is particularly sensitive to green, but less sensitive to blue and red. Chemists led by Hubert Huppertz at the University of Innsbruck have now developed a new red phosphor whose light is well perceived by the eye. This increases the light yield of white LEDs by around one sixth, which can significantly improve the energy efficiency of lighting systems.
Light emitting diodes or LEDs are only able to produce light of a certain colour. However, white light can be created using different colour mixing processes.
Researchers led by Francesca Ferlaino from the University of Innsbruck and the Austrian Academy of Sciences report in Physical Review X on the observation of supersolid behavior in dipolar quantum gases of erbium and dysprosium. In the dysprosium gas these properties are unprecedentedly long-lived. This sets the stage for future investigations into the nature of this exotic phase of matter.
Supersolidity is a paradoxical state where the matter is both crystallized and superfluid. Predicted 50 years ago, such a counter-intuitive phase, featuring...
A stellar flare 10 times more powerful than anything seen on our sun has burst from an ultracool star almost the same size as Jupiter
A localization phenomenon boosts the accuracy of solving quantum many-body problems with quantum computers which are otherwise challenging for conventional computers. This brings such digital quantum simulation within reach on quantum devices available today.
Quantum computers promise to solve certain computational problems exponentially faster than any classical machine. “A particularly promising application is the...
The technology could revolutionize how information travels through data centers and artificial intelligence networks
Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley have built a new photonic switch that can control the direction of light passing through optical fibers...
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24.04.2019 | Life Sciences
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