SYDNEY – Coral-munching crown-of-thorns starfish can be safely killed by common household vinegar, scientists revealed Thursday in a discovery that offers hope for Australia's struggling Great Barrier Reef. The predatory starfish is naturally occurring but has proliferated due to pollution and runoff at the World Heritage-listed ecosystem, which is also reeling from two consecutive years of mass coral bleaching. Until now, expensive chemicals such as bile salts have been used to try to eradicate the pest, which consumes coral faster than it can be regenerated, but they can harm other marine organisms. Tests by James Cook University, in collaboration with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), showed vinegar is safe, effective and cheap. Study head Lisa Bostrom-Einarsson said crown-of-thorns were injected with vinegar at four sites on the reef over six weeks, causing them to die within 48 hours with no impact on other life.
SYDNEY – A giant snail that eats starfish could be unleashed to help save the Great Barrier Reef, officials said Monday, with a trial under way to breed thousands of the rare species. Predatory crown-of-thorns starfish, which munch coral, are naturally occurring but have proliferated due to pollution and agricultural runoff in the struggling ecosystem. Their impact has been profound. A major study of the 2,300-km-long reef's health in 2012 found that coral cover had halved over the previous 27 years, with 42 percent of the damage attributed to the crown-of-thorns starfish. According to research by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), the pest avoids areas where the Pacific triton sea snail -- also known as the giant triton -- is present.
A study has valued the Great Barrier Reef at US $42 billion, with its value as an ecosystem and economic driver labelled'too big to fail.' The reef is bigger than Britain, Switzerland and the Netherlands combined and supports 64,000 tourism-related jobs. The study comes as the reef suffers an unprecedented second straight year of coral bleaching due to warming sea temperatures linked to climate change. The study, based on six months' analysis, comes as the reef suffers coral bleaching, as well as facing pressure from farming run-off, development and outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish populations, which eat corals Corals have a symbiotic relationship with a tiny marine algae called'zooxanthellae' that live inside and nourish them. When sea surface temperatures rise, corals expel the colourful algae.
The Australian government's new plan to save the Great Barrier Reef won't work, say environmental groups. On Monday, the government pledged an extra A$60 million in funding to protect the natural icon. Most of the funding will go towards removing crown-of-thorns starfish, which eat coral, and preventing farm run-off from entering the reef. Indeed, these are major threats to the Great Barrier Reef. Crown-of-thorns starfish were responsible for almost half the coral lost between 1985 and 2012.
Autonomous underwater vehicles identify and kill invasive starfish at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Robots can help undo some of the damage that has been done to our environment. Unmanned aerial vehicles are already being used to track endangered wildlife and assist land conservation efforts by mapping ecosystems and monitoring protected areas. Meanwhile at sea, autonomous sailing drones are monitoring ocean water to detect any pollution and track changes in temperature and pH. Now, underwater robots are also working to restore biodiversity by hunting invasive species.