From GlobalNation: China’s boom savages coral reefs—study
SYDNEY—China’s economic boom has seen its coral reefs shrink by at
least 80 percent over the past 30 years, a joint Australian study found
Thursday, with researchers describing “grim” levels of damage and loss.
Scientists from the Australian Research Council Center of
Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and the South China Sea Institute of
Oceanology said their survey of mainland China and South China Sea reefs
showed alarming degradation.
“We found that coral abundance has declined by at least 80
percent over the past 30 years on coastal fringing reefs along the
Chinese mainland and adjoining Hainan Island,” said the study, published
in the latest edition of the journal Conservation Biology.
“On offshore atolls and archipelagos claimed by six countries in
the South China Sea, coral cover has declined from an average of greater
than 60 percent to around 20 percent within the past 10-15 years,” it
Coastal development, pollution and overfishing linked to the
Asian giant’s aggressive economic expansion were the major drivers, the
authors said, describing a “grim picture of decline, degradation and
“China’s ongoing economic expansion has exacerbated many wicked
environmental problems, including widespread habitat loss due to coastal
development, unsustainable levels of fishing and pollution,” the study
Coral loss in the South China Sea – where reefs stretch across
some 30,000 square kilometers (12,000 square miles) – was compounded by
poor governance stemming from competing territorial claims.
Some marine parks aimed at conservation had been established but
study author Terry Hughes said they were too small and too far apart to
arrest the decline in coral cover.
“The window of opportunity to recover the reefs of the South
China Sea is closing rapidly, given the state of degradation revealed in
this study,” he said.
More than 30 years of unbridled economic growth has left large
parts of China environmentally devastated, with the nation suffering
from some of the most severe air, water and land pollution in the world,
global studies have shown.
Such destruction has led to widespread local frustration and a
number of protests, some of which have succeeded in getting proposed new
factories and facilities canceled or postponed.
The government has laid out a road map to transform China’s
development mode to one that is more environmentally friendly and less
dependent on headlong economic growth.
The South China Sea, which the Philippines
refers to as West Philippine Sea, is strategically significant, home to
some of the world’s most important shipping lanes and believed to be
rich in resources.
China claims most of the sea including
waters near the shores of its neighbors. Rival claimants include Brunei,
Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, and tensions over the issue have
flared in recent years.