Spatio-temporal Distribution and Abundance of Crown-of-Thorns Starfish (Acanthaster planci L.) in Three Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) around the Island Garden City of Samal, Philippines

  • Raquel B. Agustin University of the Philippines Mindanao
  • Cleto L. Nañola Jr. University of the Philippines Mindanao


The spatial and temporal distribution of crown-of-thorns starfish or COTS (Acanthaster planci L.) was investigated in three marine protected areas (MPAs) around the Island Garden City of Samal (IGaCoS), Philippines, from December 2008 to December 2009. Methods include photo quadrat for the live coral cover and belt transect for the density of COTS and its predators. There was a significant difference in the spatial distribution of COTS among MPAs. Sanipaan Marine Park (SMP) had the highest COTS density while Coral Garden and Aundanao MPAs had the least. Variability of COTS density was attributed to percent coral cover and human intervention (i.e., COTS clean-up drive). At temporal scale, only data from SMP fitted for the analysis. There was no significant difference observed during the sampling periods conducted in April, August, and November 2009. The results suggest longer time of monitoring to cover the life span of COTS, taking into consideration  the probable causes for infestation, whether anthropogenic (i.e., harvesting leading to mass spawning) or natural. In conclusion, the spatial distribution of COTS depends on the abundance of their preferred food while the temporal distribution is probably influenced by environmental conditions over time.