Sat, Sep 09, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Academics point to global recognition for algae reefs

UNDER THREAT:A local group said it would look abroad for support in its protest against a new CPC natural gas terminal that environmentalists say could hurt the reefs

By Liu Li-jen and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Environmentalists and academics on Wednesday again protested expansion plans for CPC Corp, Taiwan’s natural gas facility in Datan Borough (大潭) in Taoyuan’s Guanyin District (觀音), saying they endanger algal reefs near the site.

State-owned CPC’s planned liquified natural gas (LNG) terminal in Datan — where the company already operates an LNG storage terminal and a power plant — has been a source of controversy with environmentalists.

The natural gas facility is part of a planned expansion of an industrial zone on land that the government is to reclaim from the sea off Datan’s coast.

Marine biologists Allen Chen (陳昭倫) and Liu Ching-yu (劉靜榆) said the journal Coral Reefs’ publication of “Unprecedented Calcareous Algal Reefs in Northern Taiwan Merit a High Conservation Priority,” a paper they co-authored, proves that the project should be halted.

Chen and Liu are researchers at Academia Sinica’s Biodiversity Research Center and the Council of Agriculture’s Taiwan Endemic Species Research Institute, respectively.

“Coral Reefs is in the top 10th percentile of international academic journals in the field. Papers pass a rigorous anonymous peer-review process before publication,” Chen said. “The acceptance of our paper proves it is an undeniable scientific fact that the algal reefs off Datan are world-class natural heritage.”

Liu said CPC plans to reclaim land in a sandy area of the sea floor for its terminal, but the construction zone lies close to the low-tide line, where the coral reefs are.

“The special thing about Taoyuan’s algal reefs is that they are found on the gravel layer of the sea floor, formed by the Gushihmen (古石門) alluvial fan. This allows coralline algae to grow,” Liu said.

In addition, the researchers were able to document three species of large laced morays, predators whose presence proves the reefs support a flourishing eco-system, Liu said.

With the ocean’s fish populations diminishing, the Datan reefs are highly valuable as a sustainable food source, Liu added.

Taoyuan Local Union director-general Pan Chong-cheng (潘忠政) said he was happy that the reefs, which run along 27km of the city’s coastline, were receiving attention from the international academic community, adding that the union would initiate an international petition to save the formations.

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