[Coral-List] Spratly Islands Update -- Perhaps some light in a dark tunnel -- Plus new online resources

John Mcmanus jmcmanus at rsmas.miami.edu
Fri May 27 16:43:42 EDT 2016

Over the last year, there have been a lot of denials about environmental impacts of the recent island-building in the South China Sea. For a recent review, see http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/05/26/china-calls-south-china-sea-island-reclamation-a-green-project-spratly-islands/.
Terry Hughes has been among those countering the denials, as in http://www.breitbart.com/environment/2016/05/24/china-complains-environmental-destruction-south-china-sea/

However, this week China has officially acknowledged that there is an environmental coral reef problem. Wang Xiaoqiang, an official with the Ministry of Environmental Protection, stated in a speech to mark World Diversity Day that about 80 per cent of coral reefs and 73 per cent of mangroves in the South China Sea have already disappeared. Given that recently appointed Minister Chen Jining had previously declared war on air and water pollution, some of us had been hoping that the same spirit would be applied to the problem of coral reef degradation. Perhaps this is a step in that direction. A summary of the remarks can be found at   http://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/1951491/chinese-official-rings-alarm-bells-about-ecological-threats-south.

There have been a few excellent studies of coral reef degradation in China, including a massive review by Terry Hughes et al. 2012, and additional studies such as that by six Chinese authors, Zhao et al. 2013.

For a recent review of the overall situation in the South China Sea, see the recent article by Professor Brian Morton, a long-time and highly respected expert on the marine ecology and biodiversity of the South China Sea.

A recent short conference on the South China Sea at the East-West Center is online at https://vimeo.com/165205586. If you would like a pdf of my slides, minus the videos, contact me. I encourage everyone who gives general talks on coral reef issues to include a discussion of the South China Sea problems. Feel free to use my pictures from this talk or elsewhere online for talks and non-exclusively for print articles. Note that the first photo of Fiery Cross Reef in my slides is from Greg Poling of AMTI-CSIS, and the closing photo is from ScubaZoo, and their permission would be needed to reprint those. The world is rapidly losing major coral reef resources, and the world should know!

CSIS also just put up a podcast on the newly built islands in the Spratly area. I talk about everything from what coral reefs are, how they grow, wave protection, rising seas, their importance in fisheries, how dredging works, and comparisons with previous US island-building including in New York, Miami and Johnston Atoll, to the failings of modern US mitigation procedures.. I alternate sections with Greg Poling.

Morton, Brian (2016) China's pond: The South China Sea. There's going to be tears! Marine Pollution Bulletin 106:1-3

T.P. Hughes, H. Huang, M.A.L. Young, 'The wicked problem of China’s disappearing coral reefs' (2013) 27 Conservation Biology 261–269.

M.X. Zhao, K.F. Yu, Q. Shi, T.R. Chen, H.L. Zhang, and T.G. Chen, 'Coral communities of the remote atoll reefs in the Nansha Islands, southern South China Sea' (2013) 185(9) Environmental monitoring and assessment 7381-7392.

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