Outbreaks of the crown of thorns starfish now threaten the “coral triangle” – the richest center of coral reef biodiversity on Earth.
That’s the finding of recent scientific surveys by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and the Wildlife Conservation Society based at the Bronx Zoo.
The starfish – a predator that feeds on corals by spreading its stomach over them using digestive enzymes to liquefy tissue – was discovered in large numbers by the researchers on reefs in Halmahera, Indonesia, at the heart of the Coral Triangle, which lies between Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Palau and the Solomon Islands.
The Coral Triangle is considered the genetic fountainhead for many corals found on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Ningaloo and other reefs in the region.
The surveys confirmed that while Halmahera’s reefs are still 30 percent to 50 percent richer than nearby reefs, some areas were almost completely destroyed.