For more than 40 years, the Great Barrier Reef has been plagued by crown-of-thorns starfish, an invasive invertebrate that gnaws on hard coral and eliminates other marine animals.
The Australian Institute of Marine Science placed the starfish second on the list of major threats for the reef system and its inhabitants, with tropical cyclones being first. But now a group of researchers say that they found a quick and eco-friendly method of getting rid of the pests – vinegar.
Biologists injected vinegar into several starfish and watched them die in no more than two days. Other teams have also used vinegar to remove the pests, but the formula designed by James Cook University researchers has a 100% kill rate.
One of the researchers explained that their solution is more convenient than ox bile, a toxin used by conservationists to finish off the hungry star fish. Besides being more expensive, ox bile cannot be bought off the shelves of any local store like vinegar can.
Researchers said that 20 milliliters of vinegar is enough to kill a crown-of-thorns starfish in less than 48 hours. Lisa Bostrom-Einarsson, lead author of a study on vinegar’s ability of saving the Great Barrier Reef from the unwelcome enemy, explained that her team would need to test vinegar in the sea first to make sure that it didn’t harm other marine animals.
Although manually injecting the dreaded animals one at a time is a time-consuming work, it is the only method to date that proved safe for other marine life in the coral reef. In 2014, divers equipped with ox bile injections were able to terminate 350,000 starfish in the Great Barrier Reef with a couple of full-time crews.
Yet, official records show that there may be four to 12 million more starfish on the coral system since each female can lay 65 million eggs every year.
“While it would take an insane effort to cull them all that way, we know that sustained efforts can save individual reefs,”
Researchers would test the vinegar solution by the end of the year.
But crown-of-thorns starfish is not the only threat the Great Barrier Reef currently faces. Rising sea temperatures, illegal fishing, and pollution also affect the reef’s health.
A group of researchers said that the Great Barrier Reef scored a C-minus when a team assessed its status after a 5-year-long study. Scientists reported that people on the coast need to cut the level of pollutants that reach the sea to improve the score.
Image Source: Flickr
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