Wed, Sep 12, 2012 - Page 1 News List

Kenting Park’s coral reefs disappearing: researchers

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

A two-tonne chunk of Porites coral knocked over when Typhoon Tembin struck Kenting, Pingtung County, last month is shown in an undated photograph provided by Biodiversity Research Center associate researcher Allen Chen.

Photo courtesy of Allen Chen

A research team has discovered that the percentage of coral cover in the ocean off Kenting National Park has decreased by 63 percent over the past 26 years and the biodiversity of coral reefs in the area has also declined.

The 12 researchers, comprising members of Academia Sinica’s Biodiversity Research Center and researchers from Malaysia and Australia, found that the coral reefs have been affected by six severe typhoons and two cases of coral bleaching over the past 26 years.

Allen Chen (陳昭倫), an associate researcher at the research center, said the percentage of coral cover at Kenting’s Wanlitung (萬里桐) had dropped from 47.5 percent in 1985 to 17.7 percent in 2010 — a reduction of 63 percent.

Meanwhile, the coverage rate of macro algae that compete with the corals increased from 11.3 percent in 2003 to 28.5 percent in 2010.

“The competition between coral and the algae also affects the recovery of coral reefs,” Chen said, adding that in addition to destruction caused by natural disasters, such as Typhoon Herh in 1996 and Typhoon Morakot in 2008, disturbances caused by human activities also damage their recovery.

The coral reef ecosystem is considered the tropical rainforest of the ocean, meaning that the ecosystem has a high biodiversity, Chen said, adding that the nearly 300 species of coral and 1,500 species of fish that inhabit the coral reef ecosystem are threatened by human activity and natural disasters.

The team also discovered that corals from the genera Acropora and Montipora have almost disappeared from the reefs, while corals of the genera Heliopoera and Porites dominate the area, indicating a decline in biodiversity.

Chen said the government should designate Kenting National Park a nature conservation area where collecting corals is prohibited, so that the coral reefs can recover from the current damage and provide a healthy environment for marine life.

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