Corals in Singapore – Wild Singapore and Reef Ecology Lab

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Wild Singapore discusses the rich diversity of wildlife our sunny island has.

See the link above for one post explaining Singapore reefs and an account of the recent mass coral bleaching that has been observed:

Devastating world wide mass coral bleaching was declared in October 2015, eight months before it first happened in Singapore, by the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The third global mass coral bleaching event in recorded history, scientists warned it could result in the biggest global coral die-off. The only two previous such global events were in 1998 and 2010, when every major ocean basin experienced bleaching. Singapore’s reefs also suffered mass coral bleaching then.

As bleaching events occur more frequently and closer together, corals have no time to recover. Some scientists believe that continued global temperature rise would lead a point when every year is a bleaching year by around 2030. This may lead to complete global loss of coral reefs by the middle of this century.

Reefs in Singapore.singaporemap

The Reef Ecology Lab also conducts research on the Reefs of SG and the region. Click on the link to see a short description of the SG reefs and their threats – one threat, land recalamation, is quoted below:

The most significant cause of reef degradation in Singapore is sedimentation. Land reclamation, dredging of shipping channels and dumping of earth spoils, have increased the sediment load. Loss of coral reefs to land reclamation have occurred along the southwest coast of the mainland and on several of the offshore southern islands. Increased sedimentation have affected the remaining reefs in two ways:

(1) by causing a slow but steady reduction in live coral cover, and
(2) by reducing the lower depth limit of coral growth on reef slopes.

Surveys since 1986 indicate that live coral cover have decreased by up to 20% on some reefs, although other reefs register no impact. The reduction in sunlight penetration have furthermore reduced the lower depth limit of coral growth. In the 1970s, coral growth extended to 10 m down the reef slope. Today, growth is restricted to 6 m although some coral species still occur at the 8-m depth.

Sources:
1) http://coralreef.nus.edu.sg/singapore.html
2) http://wildshores.blogspot.sg/2016/08/mass-coral-bleaching-in-singapore-why.html#.V-ZrsJN970E

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Spratly Islands Dispute – Death of the corals

The Spratly Islands are one of many islands found in the South China Sea that are part of the regional territorial dispute between nearby countries like China, Vietnam, Philippines.

All claim to have claim to various islands within the South China Sea, the largest claim being China’s ‘nine-dash line’:

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Other claims include:

Up to 5 countries are claiming parts or all of the Spratly Islands – China, Vietnam, Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

Why are the Islands important?

In terms of national security, these islands are important due to their location in the South China Sea, where many merchant ships pass through to deliver  goods, people, and energy products to Asian-Pacific countries. By controlling these islands, the country in question would be able to ensure the safe passage of their goods.

In terms of energy security, the Spratly Islands are considered indispensable to countries in the region due to the potential sources of natural gas and oil found under the islands’ seabed. Whichever country wins the dispute would have the right to explore and develop these resources for their own domestic consumption. This would help in diversifying a country’s energy portfolio while making them less vulnerable to foreign oil and gas markets. At this time, however, the amount of recoverable oil and gas that these islands contain have not been fully proven.

Beyond this, whichever country gets control of the islands will also have control over activities within the area – including fishing. Economically, the fishing industries of countries in the region can be very severely affected.

Source: http://energyinasiablog.com/2011/10/the-spratly-islands-dispute-defining-sea-lane-security/

Environmental impact so far?

China has been very active within the disputed islands and in recent years have constructed artificial islands within the disputed zones.

Satellite imagery from 30 March, 7 August 2014 and 30 January 2015 shows the extent of Chinese progress in building an island at Gaven Reefs in the Spratly Islands.
Source: http://edition.cnn.com/2015/10/28/asia/china-south-china-sea-disputes-explainer/

With the building of such islands on what used to be reefs, comes massive damage to reef systems, as discovered by experts:

Marine biologist John McManus said Chinese poachers had been using the propellers on their boats to destroy coral reefs at disputed islands Spratyls and Pag-asa, referred to as Thitu in China.

According to data, coral bleaching and reef scarring are evidence of systematic crushing through repeated scratching or scraping by Chinese poachers to harvest giant clams.

McManus added that aside from discovering the poaching method, the data also links the destruction of the corals to China’s construction of artificial islands.

“They said their scientists went there. They looked around and they say ‘Oh, this is all dead coral.’ It was! It’s the truth—it had been killed by the Chinese fishers,” he said.

Source: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/582462/scitech/science/chinese-poachers-destroyed-coral-reefs-in-spratly-pag-asa-islands-us-biologist

It doesn’t look like we are anywhere close to any solution to the dispute, those most agree that any solution should only come with negotiations and not military action. Until that happens, it is doubtful the reefs will be left unscathed.