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Coral reefs in Taiwan waters suffer mass bleaching

Taiwan observes worst coral bleaching in history due to high sea temperature

(Green Island Cool-Diving photo)

(Green Island Cool-Diving photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The coral reefs in waters around Taiwan have suffered the worst bleaching in history, with one-third of them dying as a result, according to researchers.

During a press conference on Tuesday (Jan. 12), the Taiwan Coral Bleaching Observation Network (TCBON) pointed out that at least 31 percent of the coral reefs in Taiwanese waters have died from bleaching in 2020 due to a high sea temperature. The country's largest coral island, Xiao Liuqiu (小琉球), lost approximately 55 percent of its corals.

TCBON researcher Kuo Chao-yang (郭兆揚) explained that 31 percent of the coral reefs had suffered irreversible deaths and that they will not recover even if the water temperature drops. Meanwhile, eight percent of the country's corals are dying and being monitored, he said.

Kuo suspected that the causes of the mass bleaching were global warming and a lack of typhoons in Taiwan last year. He said typhoons, despite being disastrous on land, can have a cooling effect on coral reefs and prevent widespread bleaching.

Kuo said the optimal sea temperature range for coral growth is 23-28 degrees Celsius but pointed out that Taiwanese waters last summer reached nearly 31 degrees. He added that corals are extremely sensitive to their surroundings and that they could suffer bleaching or death in waters below 18 degrees or above 30 degrees, reported CNA.

Taiwanese diver Mingo Lee (李世明) also said the underwater temperature east of Penghu County was about 34 degrees when he went diving there last August. He said the corals were white as snow, which he had never encountered in his 20 years of diving.

Meanwhile, Allen Chen (陳昭倫), a founder of TCBON, urged the global community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He said coral reefs could become the first ecosystem to completely disappear in the 21st century if global warming continues, reported CTWANT.

According to Greenpeace, Taiwan's coral reef communities make up one-third of the world's variety of species. Of the 700 species of stony corals on the planet, 250 can be found along the nation's coast.