Sun, Jul 13, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Nation’s coral reefs make a comeback

RESILIENT:Coral reefs off the Hengchun Peninsula have regenerated from 20% seabed coverage in 2007 to 42% last year, maybe due to the nuclear plant, biologists said

By Tsai Tsung-hsien and Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

A coral reef is seen in an undated photograph. Data suggest that coral reefs in the waters off Taiwan’s Hengchun Peninsula are regenerating.

Photo provided by the Taiwanese Coral Reef Society

Amid a global trend of coral reefs disappearing due to rising temperatures over the past several decades, data suggest that coral reefs in the waters off Taiwan’s Hengchun Peninsula are regenerating, a phenomenon which academics said could have resulted from their resilience against warm water discharged by the Ma-anshan Nuclear Power Plant in Ma-anshan District (馬鞍山), Pingtung County.

Citing data collected last year, National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium director-general Wang Wei-hsien (王維賢) said the coral reef coverage rate in the area had rallied from 20 percent in 2007 to 42 percent last year.

Marine biologists Fang Tung-yung (樊同雲) and Lin Chia-Kuei (林家魁) said that these reefs may have developed a degree of resilience because of wastewater discharged by the nuclear plant in Hengchun Township (恆春), which, ironically, had prepared them for a warming climate at an early stage.

The research conducted by the museum also cited the high number of typhoons hitting Taiwan and human pollution as possible reasons for the reefs’ survival despite climate change.

The scope of coral reefs around the peninsula has been expanding after it hit a low of 20 percent coverage in 2007, when human activities caused large numbers of reefs to bleach and later perish, the research showed.

Data presented at this year’s Asia-Pacific Coral Reef Symposium earlier this month indicated that the coverage rate of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has dropped to 13.8 percent from 28 percent and is decreasing at a rate of 0.53 percent each year, while coral reefs in the Caribbean have shrunk from 50 percent sea-bed coverage in the 1970s to just 10 percent in 2001.

Coral reefs in the South China Sea bear the brunt of the changing climate, suffering an 80 percent drop in coverage rate, which now is below 20 percent, data showed.

International representatives who attended the symposium concluded that seawater acidification resulted from rising temperatures, high levels of ultraviolet rays and excessive fishing, and that these factors, as well as damage caused by other water activities, most likely contributed to the plummeting coral reef coverage rates worldwide.

A Taiwanese marine ecologist, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was rather ironic that such an egregious activity as discharging wastewater into the ocean should provide coral reefs along the southern coast of Taiwan with immunity against a changing global climate, but the figures certainly sounds an alarm about how fast natural environments are degrading and the urgency with which protective measures should be adopted by mankind.

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