Taiwan is working with Singapore on a research program to investigate environmental changes in the South China Sea region by analyzing coral exoskeletons, the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium said.
A research team from the Earth Observatory of Singapore, which is run by Nanyan Technological University, has been stationed at the museum in Pingtung County since May and has recently completed its research, the museum said.
With the assistance of the museum’s researchers, the team took Porites coral exoskeleton samples from the waters off Kenting National Park for an international research program initiated by the Singaporean institute, it said.
Fan Tung-yun (樊同雲), a researcher at the museum who took part in the research, said that coral exoskeletons are one of the natural recorders of environmental changes and can therefore help scientists picture how human activity is affecting marine environments.
By analyzing the coral, scientists can find out about environmental changes in the area from which the coral is sampled, which in this case are the waters south of Taiwan and in the South China Sea, Fan said.
Minor elements and isotopes in coral have been used 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 3m tall. Because coral grows by only 1cm a year, the samples are expected to bring to light environmental changes in marine areas south of Taiwan’s Hengchun Peninsula over the past 300 years, Fan said.
Next year, the museum and the Singaporean researchers plan to head to the Pratas Islands, also known as the Dongsha Islands (東沙群島), to drill for more samples.
“Data from those samples should be more interesting,” because the area is further away from human activity, he said.