SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Coral-munching crown-of-thorns starfish may be safely killed by widespread family vinegar, scientists revealed Thursday in a discovery that offers hope for Australia’s struggling Great Barrier Reef.
The predatory starfish is naturally-occurring however has proliferated as a consequence of air pollution and run-off on the World Heritage-listed ecosystem, which can be reeling from two consecutive years of mass coral bleaching.
Until now different costly chemical compounds reminiscent of bile salts have been used to try to eradicate the pest — which consumes coral quicker than it may be regenerated — however they’ll hurt different marine organisms.
Tests by James Cook University, in collaboration with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), confirmed vinegar was secure, efficient and low-cost.
Study head Lisa Bostrom-Einarsson mentioned crown-of-thorns have been injected with vinegar at 4 websites on the reef over six weeks, inflicting them to die inside 48 hours with no affect on different life.
“We recorded live coral cover, abundance of coral disease, fish abundance and diversity, fish diseases and the abundance of closely related invertebrates before, during and after the six-week study period and found no detrimental effects,” she mentioned.
Keeping crown-of-thorns beneath management nonetheless is a tricky ask, with dive groups needing to individually inject every starfish earlier than it dies and breaks-up.
But regardless of the labour-intensive job, it’s way more environment friendly than extracting them from the water earlier than killing them.
A serious research of the reef’s well being revealed in 2012 confirmed cowl had halved over the previous 27 years and attributed 42 p.c of the harm to crown-of-thorns starfish.
GBRMPA director of tourism and stewardship Fred Nucifora mentioned the brand new methodology can be used to focus on reefs recognized as having excessive conservation and tourism values.
“Culling crown-of-thorns starfish is a critical management activity to protect coral cover and boost reef resilience, particularly in the wake of coral bleaching,” he mentioned.
Earlier this month, scientists revealed the two,300-kilometre (1,400-mile) lengthy Barrier Reef was struggling its second consecutive mass bleaching occasion as a consequence of warming sea temperatures, and mentioned some coral had “zero prospect” of restoration.
The reef contributes greater than Aus$7.zero billion (US$5.2 billion) a yr to Australia’s financial system, supporting the livelihoods of some 70,000 individuals, and there have been warnings that dying coral might value the area greater than one million vacationers a yr.
Bostrom-Einarsson mentioned whereas the modern new methodology was excellent news, it could be robust to wipe out starfish altogether.
“There are millions of starfish on the Great Barrier Reef and each female produces around 65 million eggs in a single breeding season,” she mentioned.
“It would take a massive effort to try and cull them all individually, but we know that sustained efforts can save individual reefs.”
Vinegar has now been added to the GBRMPA’s record of authorized management chemical compounds, that means operators can apply for permits to start out controlling the starfish.
© Agence France-Presse