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Spatial and temporal population dynamics of the crown-of-thorns starfish, Acanthaster planci, over a 24-year period along the central west coast of Okinawa Island, Japan

Abstract

Boom and bust dynamics are a prominent characteristic of the crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci) populations. Outbreaking starfish populations damage coral communities extensively and then often disappear quickly. In contrast, Onna village, on the central west coast of Okinawa Island, Japan, has been experiencing chronically high population densities of A. planci for decades. In this study, we examined spatial and temporal population dynamics of A. planci along the coast of Onna village, using removal data gathered over 24 years by a local fisheries cooperative. The results demonstrate that A. planci populations along the Onna coast often experienced high densities prior to 2003 and that recently, populations have again been increasing drastically. Size-frequency distributions suggest multiple, successive recruitment, as one of the driving factors maintaining A. planci populations in this location. Moreover, within the Onna area, the timing of outbreak peaks varied among different locations, showing a northward progression.

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Acknowledgements

We are very grateful to the members of Onna village fisheries cooperative. Our primary study with GPS drifters was supported by the Okinawa Prefectural Government. We thank OIST’s technical editor, Dr. Steven D. Aird for assistance with writing this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Masako Nakamura.

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Communicated by M. Byrne.

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Support data: Total number of individuals in each size class from 2003 to 2012.

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Nakamura, M., Okaji, K., Higa, Y. et al. Spatial and temporal population dynamics of the crown-of-thorns starfish, Acanthaster planci, over a 24-year period along the central west coast of Okinawa Island, Japan. Mar Biol 161, 2521–2530 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00227-014-2524-5

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00227-014-2524-5

Keywords

  • Great Barrier Reef
  • Coral Coverage
  • Coral Community
  • Successive Recruitment
  • Okinawa Prefecture