Teluk Buli (Buli Bay)
N 0º44.005' E 128º27.121’
Spent the day diving in Buli. The first dive was on Woi Reef, in the middle of the bay. This was the first time we have seen evidence of a serious outbreak of the crown-of-thorns starfish, which eat corals. This species is often present on reefs in low numbers, but sometimes there is a major rapid increase in the population, termed an "outbreak," when thousands of starfish severely damage coral reefs. At Woi Reef, we found extensive damage (dead corals covered by algae) and lots of crown-of-thorns, which had caused the damage and were "mopping up" many of the remaining corals.
The reason for these outbreaks is one of the most hotly debated issues in marine science, particularly whether they are linked to human impacts or not. When aggregated in an outbreak, the starfish can produce huge numbers (billions) of larvae and hence their populations are prone to major fluctuations. Enhanced nutrients in the water contribute to higher survival of starfish larvae, while overfishing of starfish predators can also promote their survival – a form of positive feedback. These days, most scientists believe outbreaks are caused by declining water quality and overfishing linked to human impacts.
– Ali & Lyndon
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Photo: Crown-of-thorns starfish eating coral, Buli Bay, Halmahera © Sterling Zumbrunn