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, with
researchers describing "grim" levels of damage and loss.
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
"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.
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 added.
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 destruction".
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 said.
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.
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
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.
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 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.