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September 24, 2017

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Taiwan, Singapore cooperate on environmental change research

TAIPEI -- Taiwan is working with Singapore on a research program aimed at finding out about environmental changes in the South China Sea region through analyzing coral exoskeleton, according to the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium.

A research team from the Earth Observatory of Singapore, which is run by Nanyan Technological University, was stationed at the museum in Pingtung County, southern Taiwan since May until recently completing its mission here, the museum said.

With the assistance of museum researchers, the team took Porites coral exoskeleton samples from waters off the Kenting National Park for an international research program initiated by the Singaporean institute, it said.

Fan Tung-yun, a researcher at the museum who took part in the research, told CNA Monday that coral exoskeleton is one of the natural recorders of environmental changes and can therefore help scientists picture how human activity affects marine environments.

By analyzing the coral, scientists can find out about environmental changes in the area the coral is sampled from, which in this case is the waters south of Taiwan and in the South China Sea, Fan said.

Minor elements and isotopes in coral have been used by scientists as a source of data on water vapor transport, ocean circulation and global climate change.

Over the past month, the museum and the Singaporean team acquired samples from coral formations up to 3 meters tall. Because coral grows by only one centimeter per year, the samples are expected to bring to light the environmental changes of marine areas south of Taiwan's Hengchun peninsula over the past 300 years, Fan said.

Next year, he went on, the museum and Singaporean researchers will head to the Pratas Islands, also called the Dongsha Islands, to drill for more samples. "Data from those samples should be more interesting," because that area is far away from human activity, he said.

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