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Monitoring and assessing a 2-year outbreak of the corallivorous seastar Acanthaster planci in Ari Atoll, Republic of Maldives

Abstract

Outbreaks of the corallivorous crown-of-thorns seastars have received increasing attention due to their negative impacts on coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific Ocean. However, outbreaks in remote and dislocated islands are still poorly understood. This study aims to begin filling informational gaps regarding outbreaks of Acanthaster planci in the remote islands of the central Ari Atoll, Republic of Maldives. The population of A. planci was monitored during three periods over 2 years (2015–2016) to evaluate variations in abundance and to characterise size structure and feeding behaviour. The outbreak appeared to be severe and active throughout the entire study period. The size structure analysis revealed a multimodal distribution dominated by individuals between 20 and 30 cm, suggesting that the outbreak may have resulted from a few nearby mass spawning events. Additionally, the most abundant live coral was Porites, which was also the most consumed genus; however, the electivity index showed a preference for corals of the genera Favites and Pavona. Finally, we also highlighted the need for more geographically extended surveys to better understand local patterns regarding outbreaks of A. planci in the Republic of Maldives.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by the Planhotel Group. We especially thank the staff of the Diamonds Athuruga and Thudufushi Resorts, the IDive Diving Center-Maldives and the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture, Republic of Maldives, for the logistical support provided. We also thank two anonymous reviewers which highly improved the manuscript with comments and suggestions.

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Correspondence to Luca Saponari.

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Saponari, L., Montalbetti, E., Galli, P. et al. Monitoring and assessing a 2-year outbreak of the corallivorous seastar Acanthaster planci in Ari Atoll, Republic of Maldives. Environ Monit Assess 190, 344 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10661-018-6661-z

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Keywords

  • Acanthaster
  • Coral reef
  • Corallivorous
  • Feeding behaviour
  • Maldives
  • Population outbreak