Coral Reefs

, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 803–812 | Cite as

Acanthaster planci is a major cause of coral mortality in Indonesia

  • A. H. BairdEmail author
  • M. S. Pratchett
  • A. S. Hoey
  • Y. Herdiana
  • S. J. Campbell


The corallivorous crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS), Acanthaster planci, is recognised as a major cause of coral reef degradation throughout much of the Pacific Ocean. However, the effects of COTS on the high diversity reefs in Indonesia have been largely overlooked. In 2007, high densities of COTS were observed in two regions of Indonesia: Aceh and Halmahera. Densities of COTS ranged from 0 to 52 starfish 2,000 m2 across 24 sites in Aceh and from 0 to 18 starfish 2,000 m2 at 10 sites in Halmahera. Mortality rates of Acropora spp. were very high at affected sites: over 50 % of colonies had been killed at seven of the 16 affected sites. A review of historical sources going back to 1969 suggests that COTS have damaged many reefs throughout Indonesia, including much activity within the Indonesian section of the Coral Triangle. Furthermore, the data suggest that COTS activity has increased rapidly since 2000. Very little of this activity has been reported in the primary literature, and there is a general lack of awareness in Indonesia of COTS as a potential cause of reef degradation. This lack of awareness, combined with limited monitoring efforts, means that damage caused by COTS is often attributed to other causes, such as destructive fishing, bleaching or tsunami. COTS are clearly a major source of coral mortality in Indonesia of which scientists and government need to be more cognizant.


Coral reef Mortality Coral Triangle Crown-of-thorns starfish Disturbance Predation Aceh Halmahera 



We thank Mark Erdmann and Andreas Kunzmann for information on much of the COTS activity recorded in this study. This study was supported by the Australian Research Council and the Wildlife Conservation Society, Indonesia Marine Program.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. H. Baird
    • 1
    Email author
  • M. S. Pratchett
    • 1
  • A. S. Hoey
    • 1
    • 2
  • Y. Herdiana
    • 3
  • S. J. Campbell
    • 3
  1. 1.ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef StudiesJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Red Sea Research CenterKing Abdullah University of Science and TechnologyThuwalKingdom of Saudi Arabia
  3. 3.Wildlife Conservation Society, Indonesia Marine ProgramBogorIndonesia

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