Why do we need to save Taoyuan Algal Reef?
Crustose coralline algae (CCA) are heavily calcified species and contribute to the growth and development of corals reefs, similar to reef-building corals, in the tropical and subtropical shallow water. In most of cases, CCA play the role as the “glue” to cement coral rubbles and to stablise the structure of reefs. It is hard to imagine that CCA can cement themselves with the growth rate of 0.05 cm.yr-1 to form massive reef structure as we see from coral-CCA biotic reef in the tropical and subtropical shallow water.
A massive “fringing” algal reef does exist along the cost of the Taoyuan City, in the northern Taiwan, and it desperately needs your help! The reef extend continuously in a north-south direction along the coastline (25º07’00.11”N, 121º14’22.23”E and 24º59’19.34”N, 121º00’47.00”E), with approximately 27 km in length and a maximum 450 m in width on the tidal flats. Morover, reef width extending towards sea is underestimated due to a large tidal range of 4 m. Stable Isotope dating on coral skeletons collected from core samples indicate the development of reefs to 7500 BP and made up of CCA mixed with sediment-tolerant coral genera, such as Cyphastrea, Dipsastraea, and Goniopora on the conglomerate of Shihmen Alluvial Fan, and around 4400 BP CCA becoming dominant reef-builders till present. Currently, the reef is still growing with the rate of 0.05 cmyr-1 by CCA species from genera, such as Mesophyllum, Phymatolithon, and Harveylithon.
The Taoyuan CCA reef performs similar ecosystem functions, like those of coral reefs, including hosting marine biodiversity, fishery, tourism, and shoreline protection. Based on these criteria, In 2014, Guanxin Algal Reef Wildlife Protected Area (GARWPA) is established to preserve biodiversity, landscape, and ecosystem services at the southern section of Taoyuan algal reefs. However long-term industrial pollution and continuous habitat destruction by land claim and windmill construction threaten the future of this reef system. Particularly, the recent development project of a liquid nature gas (LNG) receiving station and port by the Chinese Petroleum Cooperation (CPC). Local communities, NGOs, and Academy have raised serious concerns that over 300 hectares of algal reefs will be directly impacted and disappeared once the environmental impact assessment of this project is approved. The worse scenario of hydraulic model test indicates that the GARWPA will be continuously destroyed by littoral drift due to groin effect of CPC-LNG port jetty construction.
A short paper entitled “Unprecedented calcareous algal reefs in northern Taiwan merit a high conservation priority” is recently accepted and in press in Coral Reefs as a ReefSite.