Data from: Bias associated with the detectability of the coral-eating pest crown-of-thorns seastar and implications for reef management
Kayal, Mohsen; Bosserelle, Pauline; Adjeroud, Mehdi (2017), Data from: Bias associated with the detectability of the coral-eating pest crown-of-thorns seastar and implications for reef management, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.dk5dm
Outbreaks of the predator crown-of-thorns seastar (COTS) Acanthaster planci cause widespread coral mortality across the Indo-Pacific. Like many marine invertebrates, COTS is a nocturnal species whose cryptic behaviour during the day can affect its detectability, particularly in structurally complex reef habitats that provide many refuges for benthic creatures. We performed extensive day and night surveys of COTS populations in coral reef habitats showing differing levels of structural complexity and COTS abundance. We tested whether estimations of COTS density varied between day and night observations, and if the differences were related to changes in COTS abundance, reef structural complexity, and the spatial scale of observation. Estimations of COTS density were on average 27% higher at night than during the day. Differences in COTS detection varied with changing seastar abundance but not reef structural complexity or scale of observation. Underestimation of COTS abundance in daytime was significant for a broad seastar density range, thus potentially affecting most outbreak events. Our study suggests that portions of COTS populations can be undetected during conventional surveys and control campaigns, which are exclusively conducted by day, and significantly affect the trajectory of coral reefs. Accounting for bias in COTS detection can strengthen coral reef management broadly.