Tue, Mar 19, 2019 - Page 8 News List

It is time to shout for Taoyuan’s algal reefs

By Allen Chen 陳昭倫

Stretching for 27km, the Taoyuan coastline, draped in sand dunes, is home to a unique shallow-water algal reef ecosystem.

Unlike the colorful coral reefs commonly found in warm, tropical waters, the porous algal reefs look dark in summer and turn red in winter. This relatively unknown paradise for exploration has excited many scientists.

Geological research shows that the formation of the reefs 7,500 years ago was a coincidence. When ice age glaciers began to fade 12,000 years ago, it took nearly 5,000 years for the sea level to rise 120m to its current level, swallowing up the Taiwan Strait.

At that time, hermatypic — reef-building — coral arrived on the coast of Taoyuan from warmer, southern waters, adhering to stones washed down from Dahan Creek (大漢溪).

With crustose coralline red algae serving as an adhesive, the reefs slowly stacked up.

Later, as temperatures dropped again during the Little Ice Age of the northern hemisphere 4,400 years ago, along with an increase in sand deposits, the seawater was no longer warm and clear.

As a result, the original coral species that contributed to the formation of the reef complexes could no longer survive, leaving the crustose coralline red algae to build reefs, which eventually lead to the distinctive ecological landscape along Taoyuan’s sand dune coast.

Due to industrial pollution and habitat destruction, most algal reefs have disappeared or stopped growing.

Unfortunately, the most well-preserved reefs in the Datan (大潭) area of Taoyuan’s Guanyin District (觀音) are also doomed to disappear from Taiwan and the world once CPC Corp builds its planned tanker port there for Taiwan’s third liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving terminal.

For more than two years, more than 50 scientists and countless citizen scientists have worked night and day to collect data, defying strong winds and heavy rain.

Together, they completed in just nine months research that would normally take three years, proving that the Datan algal reefs are in top condition and have great biodiversity.

Based on this evidence, the scientists have made every effort tell the government that Datan’s algal reefs must not cease to exist due to mistaken policies, opaque environmental impact assessments (EIA) and the authorities in charge shirking their responsibility to conserve the algal reefs.

They have urged the government to leave the reefs intact for future generations.

However, an arrogant EIA meeting chairman, ruthless authorities and cold-hearted politicians have completely ignored the data collected by scientists at the risk of their own lives, choosing instead to rely on an ethereal national development discourse to send the reefs to the scaffold.

Last year, a then-15-year-old Swedish schoolgirl, Greta Thunberg, began what has become the “Fridays for Future” school strike against climate change, an outcry against hypocritical adults dealing with climate issues by saying one thing and doing another.

Her Earth protection campaign has been causing huge waves across the continents.

As Thunberg has said: “Why should I go to school when politicians don’t even listen to scientists?”

By replacing Thunberg’s target with algal reefs, the question would be: Why should people believe in the government’s conservation work when politicians do not even listen to scientists?”

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