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June 27, 2017

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Gov't needs to protect coral reefs: experts

The China Post news staff --The government should take urgent measures to help maintain the biodiversity of coral reefs off Taiwan's southern coast and the whole ecological environment before it is too late, said a group of researchers.

The composition structure of coral reefs off southern Taiwan's Kenting area has continued deteriorating, resulting in declining biodiversity and causing growing concern over ecological sustainability of the area, according researchers, including Allen Chaolun Chen, a research fellow at the Biodiversity Research Center with the Academia Sinica.

The major findings included the devastating impact on coral reefs from natural disasters like typhoons and man-made factors from tourists.

Chen said they have found that the coral reefs were severely affected by six major typhoons and two coral bleaching events plus interferences from human beings, according to the long-term study of coral communities off Kenting's Wanlitung area between 1985 and 2010,

The total living coral coverage rate in the area shrank sharply to just 17.7 percent in 2010 from 47.5 percent in 1985 as a result of typhoons and the growing number of tourists diving to appreciate the natural wonders undersea.

The coral reefs have become less ecologically diverse as the disturbances from typhoons and human beings caused drastic changes in coral species, said Chen.

The changes deserve close attention as coral reef ecosystems provide important habitats for many highly varied marine organisms and are valuable economic resources, he stressed.

The increased occurrences of typhoons along the coastline of Taiwan and continuously rising holidaymakers would cause irreversible damage to coral reefs and the diversity of coral communities, which in turn may have an impact on the sustainable development of the fishery and tourism industries.

The frequency of disturbance combined with chronic influence of a growing human population mean that a diverse reef assemblage is unlikely to persist on this reef into the future.

Meanwhile, macro-algal coverage has increased from 11.3 percent in 2003 to 28.5 percent in 2010.

The government should take action to map out effective marine conservation policies to help prevent negative consequences from climate change and human activities, he said.

The study was a collaborative international endeavor among researchers at several various research institutions of universities in Taiwan and scientists from Australia and Malaysia. The major findings were published in the latest issue of the online scholarly journal PLoS ONE of the Public Library of Science (PLoS).

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