As hard as some things are to believe, they happen to be true. And so amazingly such an ordinary thing as vinegar could save the Great Barrier Reef of Australia.
There is a very destructive variety of starfish that is killing off the corals in the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia. And the solution is simpler than you might think. In fact, the ingredient necessary for removing this starfish is none other than the common table vinegar found in your kitchen.
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The crown-of-thorns starfish has set the corals on a downward depopulation swing. This destructive species occurs throughout the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.
Under normal circumstances, it plays a fundamental part in the ecosystem of the ocean floor. But recently these starfish have been increasing in numbers and this has spelt doom for the marine coral.
It will take a generation or two to reverse the trend. The overpopulation of crown-of-thorn starfish may be due to the abundance of phytoplankton. The larvae of the starfish feed on the phytoplankton and thus the numbers that make it to adulthood are one too many.
Up until now controlling the starfish populations has been a difficult thing. Deep sea divers normally use ox bile to clear up each starfish. It is a strenuous job and you need a permit to do it too.
However, now a new method of clearing up the starfish has been discovered by James Cook University scientists. A new paper shows that it uses simple household vinegar as the disinfectant or should we say death agent. Almost all the starfish injected with vinegar ended up dead within a two day time span. They were then eaten by the surrounding fish.
Lead author Lisa Boström-Einarsson said, “Currently divers use 10 or 12 ml of ox-bile to kill each CoTS. It’s expensive, requires permits and has to be mixed to the right concentration. We used 20 ml of vinegar, which is half the price and can be bought off the shelf at any local supermarket.”
“It has been estimated there are between 4 and 12 million of the starfish on the Great Barrier Reef alone and each female produce around 65 million eggs in a single breeding season. They managed to kill around 350 000 last year with two full-time boat crews. While it would take an insane effort to cull them all that way, we know that sustained efforts can save individual reefs,” Ms Boström-Einarsson said.
Some experimentation needs to be done before the final steamroller of decimation for the pesky starfish can begin.
While there is little chances of the starfish becoming immune to the vinegar death shots, the scientists need to be sure before they finally give the green signal to the practitioners. Killing off the starfish is not a task that can be taken with a grain of salt. It might set off more problems in its wake than it solves.
So the utmost precautions will have to be taken. This surprising way of clearing up the crown-of-thorn starfish populations is something completely out of this world. It shows that many times the solution is already in the environment somewhere. You just have to find it. That’s all.