The ecosystem of the Datan algal reef in Taoyuan would face “a complete breakdown” if a natural gas plant is built in the area, researchers said on Tuesday.
Wen Guo-zhang (溫國彰), a professor in Tunghai University’s Department of Life Science, said research shows that the G2 and Yongan (永安) sites have the most biodiversity on the reef.
However, comparisons with a 2013 study show that biodiversity and populations in the areas have decreased, with the most likely cause being development of the coastal area in Guanyin District (觀音) in Taoyuan’s Datan Borough (大潭), Wen said.
Photo provided by Wen Guo-zhang
Immediate conservation efforts are needed to protect the reef, he said.
Academia Sinica Biodiversity Research Center assistant researcher Lin Chien-hsiang (林千翔) said that the research found more than 100 otoliths — ear bones that help fish orientate themselves and maintain their balance — near the reef.
This was the first time otoliths have been found in such a sedimentary environment, Lin said.
The number of otoliths found at the G2 site is an indication that the area is home to the most diverse number of fish, he said.
Department of Life Science professor Lin Hui-zhen (林惠真) said that the coastal habitats — including algal reefs, sand, mud, tributary outlets and coastal forests — are home to at least 52 crab species, of which 17 are found near algal reefs.
However, planned construction of a receiving station for CPC Corp, Taiwan’s third liquefied natural gas terminal would change underwater currents, which would affect habitats, possibly causing marine creatures to move or disappear altogether, she said.
Liu Shao-lun (劉少倫), a professor at Tunghai University’s Center for Tropical Ecology and Biodiversity, said that their results show that the reef is an important ecological habitat for the Taoyuan coastal fishery industry.
The reef might also be a midway point for schools of fish moving from Penghu to the northeastern coast of Taiwan proper, Liu said.
A planned 3km to 4km dike to protect the station would be eroded by waves and lead to sedimentary deposits that would affect the area within 9km, he said.
“If the receiving station is completed, the algal reef ecosystem will face a complete breakdown,” Liu said.
Biodiversity Research Center assistant researcher Lin Tzu-hao (林子皓) said that construction of the facility would shatter the perfection of the ecological system and greatly disturb marine animal activity, prolonging recovery of the algal reef.
As low-frequency noises travel a long way in water, it is possible that the area would be affected during the construction process, Lin Tzu-hao said.
Their results are to be published in the Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems journal, the researchers said.
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