Historical impacts of development on coral reef loss in the South China Sea

phys.org | 8/8/2019 | Staff
iVchaniVchan (Posted by) Level 3
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New research led by The University of Hong Kong, Swire Institute of Marine Science in collaboration with Princeton University and the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry highlights the historical impacts of development on coral reef loss in the South China Sea. The findings were recently published in the journal Global Change Biology.

Using cutting-edge geochemical techniques pioneered by their Princeton collaborators, the team extracted minute quantities of nitrogen from coral skeletons, which grow in observable layers of growth similar to tree rings. Although more than 99% of the skeleton is calcium carbonate, the coral secretes a protein scaffolding upon which the minerals are attached. In this way, corals can control their calcification which increases in productive summer months and decreases in cool winter months leading to a tell-tale alternation of high and low density bands. Those bands were observed and measured using X-ray equipment at the Ocean Park veterinary hospital.

Cores - University - Hong - Kong - Research

Using coral cores archived at The University of Hong Kong, and spanning research laboratories at HKU, Princeton, and the Max Planck Institute, the team, led by SWIMS postdoctoral fellow Dr. Nicolas Duprey extracted skeletal material from each band to reconstruct a nearly 200-year time-series of change in the Pearl River Delta that pre-dated British colonization. The coral—still living as of 2007, had continuously recorded the conditions of its environment during that period of time by utilizing resources from seawater to build new skeleton. Nitrogen, a key component of the protein scaffolding, is one such element derived from the corals' diet. Coincidentally, nitrogen also bears tell-tale signs of human disturbance through the increasing prevalence of sewage pollution and a rapidly changing landscape in the Pearl River catchment within Guangdong Province.

The well-documented collapse of southern Hong Kong coral communities in the 1980s and 1990s remained a mystery for...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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