The biodiversity of Taiwan’s marine species ranks tenth in the world, but reef checks have shown that in almost half of the neighboring marine areas, coral reef coverage is below 30%. That puts those areas in a degenerative state, but we may be seeing only a glimpse of the threats faced by marine ecosystems. Without long-term monitoring, we would have had no way of knowing that the health conditions of coral reefs had atrophied to this extent.
Collaboration Between the Government and the Public
Established in 2007, the Marine National Park Headquarters (MNPH) was responsible for managing Dongsha Atoll National Park, Taiwan’s first marine national park at that time. Later, in answer to the International Society for Reef Studies’call to actively protect coral reefs, MNPH joined forces with the Biodiversity Research Center at Academia Sinica and MOTC’s Tourism Bureau’s East Coast National Scenic Area Administration. The alliance was also a way to control the coral reef ecosystem health of potential marine park areas, such as the Three Northern Islands, Gueishan Island, Green Island, Orchid Island, and Penghu southern sea area. In 2008, they organized an annual reef check at Green Island, Taitung’s Shanyuan Bay, and Penghu, later adding the Northeast Coast, Orchid Island, and Xiaoliuqiu in 2009. These reef checks brought local volunteers, residents, and businessmen to contribute to the event, understand the severity of threats that face coral reefs, and encourage more action in protecting the coral reefs. This was the first opportunity to demonstrate the strength of the government and the people working together. When a branch office opened in Dongsha in 2010 to conduct reef checks, the office hosted a Dongsha Reef Check event led by Professor Chang-feng Dai and researcher Ming-Shiou Jeng. They introduced the procedures for coral reef checks and paved the way for training MNPH colleagues to undertake reef checks on their own.
Since 2010, the Penghu Marine Biology Research Center’s Fisheries Research Institute has been hosting events at the Southern Penghu Four Islands to monitor coral reefs and remove crown-of-thorn starfish. These activities continued even after Southern Penghu Four Islands officially became a national park in 2014. Although MNPH oversee the coral reef monitoring in both Dongsha Atoll National Park and Southern Penghu Four Islands National Park, the MNPH continues to train marine volunteers and uses the annual reef check events to bring together more recruits. These opportunities also empower greater public participation in conducting surveys on the coral reef ecosystem.
This article is quoted from National Park Quarterly 2016,07 Summer.
The coral reef ecosystem is sensitive and delicate. We can protect the underwater ecosystem through proper management of tourism activities and coastal land use. / Szu-chi Hsu