Fa­cil­i­ties launched to pro­tect Nan­sha Is­lands’ ecosys­tems

Coral reef restora­tion key to en­sur­ing eco­log­i­cal se­cu­rity of South China Sea

China Daily - - TOP NEWS - By MA ZHIPING mazhip­ing@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The Min­istry of Nat­u­ral Re­sources said that fa­cil­i­ties built for the pro­tec­tion and restora­tion of the ecosys­tems of the Nan­sha Is­lands’ Yong­shu Reef, Zhubi Reef and Meiji Reef were put into ser­vice on Tues­day.

The move was a step to per­form the re­spon­si­bil­ity of pro­tect­ing and restor­ing ter­ri­to­rial land and space ecol­ogy.

The Yong­shu, Zhubi and Meiji fa­cil­i­ties will serve mainly for the pro­tec­tion and restora­tion of coral reefs, a typ­i­cal Nan­sha Is­lands ecosys­tem. Coral reef pro­tec­tion is the key to en­sur­ing the eco­log­i­cal se­cu­rity of the Nan­sha Is­lands, and even the whole South China Sea, the min­istry said on its web­site.

Spe­cific mea­sures will in­clude reg­u­lar in­ves­ti­ga­tion and as­sess­ments to grad­u­ally mas­ter the evo­lu­tion of coral reef ecosys­tems in the Nan­sha Is­lands, and to sci­en­tif­i­cally iden­tify ar­eas that need con­ser­va­tion and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, the min­istry said.

Nat­u­ral restora­tion will be the main ap­proach, but ar­ti­fi­cial restora­tion could be em­ployed as a sup­ple­men­tary mea­sure, it said. Ex­per­i­ments will be made to de­velop tech­nol­ogy and meth­ods that are in line with lo­cal eco­log­i­cal con­di­tions and char­ac­ter­is­tics of the Nan­sha Is­lands, it added.

The min­istry has opened mar­itime ob­ser­va­tion sta­tions on the three reefs, and these now pro­vide reg­u­lar in­for­ma­tion ser­vices, in­clud­ing mar­itime fore­casts and dis­as­ter warn­ings, to the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity and pass­ing ships.

Mean­while, the Chi­nese Academy of Sciences has launched the In­te­grated Re­search Cen­ter for Reefs and Is­lands Sciences on Meiji Reef, ac­cord­ing to the CAS. It said the cen­ter will be­come an on-site test base for stud­ies on the ecol­ogy, ge­ol­ogy, en­vi­ron­ment, ma­te­ri­als and ocean en­ergy of the trop­i­cal sea.

Ex­perts have said it is of global sig­nif­i­cance to con­duct in-depth re­search on ma­rine sciences in the South China Sea, which has many is­lands, di­verse ecosys­tems and rich ocean re­sources.

The cen­ter has mul­ti­ple lab­o­ra­to­ries in re­lated fields such as ecol­ogy, ge­ol­ogy, en­vi­ron­ment and cor­ro­sion pre­ven­tion.

Pro­tect­ing eco­log­i­cal re­sources and sys­tems has been es­pe­cially high­lighted in re­cent years in Hainan, China’s south­ern­most prov­ince.

In 2016, the pro­vin­cial govern­ment drew a “red line” for pro­tect­ing its main eco­log­i­cal re­sources and eco­log­i­cally vul­ner­a­ble ar­eas, which make up 11,535 square kilo­me­ters or 33 per­cent of the trop­i­cal is­land and 8,316.6 sq km, or 35.1 per­cent of Hainan’s nearby sea.

Chen Hong, an oceanog­ra­pher and di­rec­tor of the Hainan South China Sea In­sti­tute of Trop­i­cal Oceanog­ra­phy, said the eco­log­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment in the South China Sea has been im­proved re­mark­ably in re­cent years thanks to govern­ment pro­tec­tion and progress in peo­ple’s, es­pe­cially fish­er­men’s, aware­ness of car­ing for mar­itime re­sources.

As a par­tic­i­pant in a num­ber of Hainan’s mar­itime ecosys­tem re­search projects, Chen has gone to the Xisha Is­lands with his teams about 20 times, plant­ing more than 30,000 corals, tri­dacna clams and large sea­weed.

He has led his team in plant­ing an­other 170,000 coral seedlings in Sanya’s sea­wa­ters. The 53-year-old sci­en­tist plans to grow 500,000 coral seedlings in the South China Sea this year and an­other 300,000 next year to ful­fill his plan of grow­ing 1 mil­lion corals by 2020.

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