Mon, May 13, 2019 - Page 2 News List

First coral spawning seen off east coast: researchers

Staff writer, with CNA

Coral spawn off the coast of Jihui in Taitung County’s Chenggong Township in an undated photograph.

Photo courtesy of Kuo Chao-yang

The phenomenon of coral simultaneously releasing their tiny eggs and sperm, known as coral spawning, has been recorded off Taiwan’s east coast for the first time, Academia Sinica researchers said.

Coral spawning, which creates the appearance of an underwater blizzard with billions of colorful flakes, takes place once a year, dependent on the lunar cycle and water temperatures. It often coincides with the birthday of the sea goddess Matsu in the spring.

Academia Sinica’s Biodiversity Research Center has previously spent time and resources recording the phenomenon in Kenting and Penghu, but this year, researchers went to Taitung County on April 25 and 26, where they discovered coral spawning in waters off the coast of Jihui (基翬) in Chenggong Township (成功).

Researcher Allen Chen (陳昭倫) said that he and his colleagues recorded seven types of hermaphrodite coral, which have both male and female sex organs, releasing gametes.

“It was like it was snowing underwater, with pink and purple gametes floating everywhere,” Chen said.

They also recorded activity of Goniopora tenuidens, a gonochoric species that only releases sperm, Chen said.

“The great amount of sperm released by the Goniopora tenuidens looked like a thin white fog around the colonies,” he said.

Even though the underwater spectacle showed that corals in eastern Taiwan are healthy, their habitat is nonetheless threatened by human activity, Chen said.

Chen, the Taiwan Environmental Information Association, and Citizen of the Earth in late February issued a statement saying that the environmental evaluation of the Baosheng marine eco-park project near Jihui — where work on the project began on March 1 — did not include an assessment of its potential effect on coral reefs.

Baosheng Corp chairman Lu Ming-hsien (呂明賢) said that the project would not endanger coral colonies, as the construction site is hundreds of meters from the coast.

However, excavation work at other construction sites along the coast already seems to have affected the reef’s health, environmental groups said.

The proportion of coral off Jihui covered with sediment reached a record of 21.9 to 22.5 percent in February, up from 15 to 20.63 percent in May last year, a report by Chen and the two non-governmental organizations said.

The coral reefs would get sick or even suffocate if covered by an excessive amount of sediment, the report said.

Mass death of corals is inevitable “if any land-based development project nearby loosens topsoil, which will be washed into the ocean by heavy rain,” it said.

The Environmental Protection Administration on March 1 said that it would send delegates to Jihui to study the effect of the Baosheng project on the marine ecology and decide whether an underwater evaluation is needed.

The agency has yet to reach a decision.

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