Coral bleaching is occurring in reefs off New Taipei City’s Maoao Village, (卯澳) and Pingtung County’s Wanlitong Village (萬里桐) and Siaoliouciou Island (小琉球), an Ocean Conservation Administration study released on Thursday showed.
The study, conducted with the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium over the past year, was initiated in response to concerns that rising ocean temperatures would worsen coral bleaching around Taiwan, the agency said in a statement.
The researchers found “dysfunctional” — meaning bleached — coral reefs in seven of 62 locations surveyed, it said.
Photo courtesy of the Ocean Conservation Administration
The health of reefs is gauged by their coral cover and the ratio of coral to algae cover, it said.
Coral cover is the portion of the reef’s surface area that is covered by live corals, with a 10 percent coral cover being the threshold for a self-sustaining coral reef environment, it added.
The coral-to-algae ratio indicates the competitiveness of corals in relation to algae within an environment, it said.
Healthy reefs have a coral coverage of more than 50 percent, while stable reefs have coverage of 30 to 50 percent and a coral-to-algae ratio higher than 0.5, it said.
Declining reefs have 10 to 30 percent coral coverage and a coral-to-algae ratio of 0.5 or lower, while dysfunctional reefs have less than 10 percent coral coverage and a coral-to-algae ratio of under 0.1, it said.
The survey showed that reefs off the east coast were healthy, while those off the north and south coasts, and near Penghu County were mostly stable, it said.
The survey revealed dysfunctional reefs off Maoao and Wanlitong, as well as at Beauty Cave (美人洞), Yucheng Wei (漁埕尾) and Houshi Fringing (厚石裙) off Siaoliouciou Island, it said.
Human activity, pollution, land development, runoff, coral trampling and warming oceans due to climate change all contributed to damaging the reefs, it said, adding that swathes of reefs have yet to recover from an ocean heatwave in 2020.
The study was conducted through community workshops, the participation of 73 volunteers and image analysis software called Coral Net, it said.
The agency is to broaden its cooperation with academia and the public in research and conservation efforts, it added.
It urged the public not to trample corals, disturb the sand on seabeds near beaches, eat or otherwise harm reef-dwelling fish and reduce the use of plastic products, the agency said.
Additional reporting by CNA
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