[Coral-List] Spratly Island update

John McManus jmcmanus at rsmas.miami.edu
Fri Jun 19 13:14:02 EDT 2015

Journalist Victor Robert Lee has just published an article with
high-resolution comparative satellite images of some of the island-building
sites in the Spratly Island Group
f-chinas-subi-reef-reclamation/). Beginning with the second image, you can
click on them for full resolution. They show that, as with Fiery Cross Reef,
all near-surface portions of Subi Reef are now gone - permanently. Paving
has begun. 


Large portions of Mischief Reef are now gone as well. Based on a rough
measure of the mean diameter of 7 km from the undisturbed reef in Google
Earth, it looks as if the loss covers more than 50 % of the perimeter of (7
x Pi =) 22 km, or about 11 km. For an island width of roughly 0.5 km, that
gives us a conservative estimate of permanent loss of roughly 5.5 square
kilometers, or 5,500,000 square meters - all from just one of the seven
islands being built. Of course, this does not include the immense damage to
the lagoon from the dredging, and to the rest of the reef from the abrasive
coral sands which have been stirred up. 


During my visit in the 1990's, the reefs in this area within the southern
Spratly Islands were among the most amazing I had ever seen. Along one
vertical wall, I hovered cross-legged for nearly an hour watching large
schools of fish taking turns zipping by along diagonal lines upwards and
downwards, as if I was watching traffic on a busy intersection. At one
point, everything got quite dark. I assumed a very dark cloud had blocked
the sun. I was too busy watching the reaction of the fish to look up. Later,
my dive buddy who had been stationed above, told me that the darkness was
due to the passage overhead of an enormous school of hammerhead sharks. 


This week, the relevant government announced that the island-building will
end soon, and that it will focus on building up infrastructure on the new
islands. It stated "Impact on coral reef ecology is localised, temporary,
controllable and restorable."





John W. McManus, PhD

Director, National Center for Coral Reef Research (NCORE)

Professor, Marine Biology and Ecology

Coral Reef Ecology and Management Lab (CREM Lab)

Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS)

University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, 33149

 <mailto:jmcmanus at rsmas.miami.edu> jmcmanus at rsmas.miami.edu
<http://ncore.rsmas.miami.edu/> http://ncore.rsmas.miami.edu/



"If you lose a diamond ring in the bedroom, don't look for it in the living
room just because the light there is better".




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