Biodiversity of the South China Sea

23 Jun 2015 Regional marine biologists collaborate to uncover extraordinary coral species diversity in the South China Sea Large Marine Ecosystem.

The South China Sea is a large marine region that spans an area of more than 3 million km2, bounded by the coastlines of ten nations. Compared to the adjacent Coral Triangle, which has been designated the world's center of marine biodiversity, the South China Sea has received much less scientific and conservation attention. A team led by Dr HUANG Danwei and Prof CHOU Loke Ming from the Department of Biological Sciences in NUS brought together biologists from around the region, including most of the ASEAN countries, China and Taiwan, to determine the diversity of stony corals here. The researchers assembled a comprehensive dataset for coral reefs in the entire South China Sea, and discovered that this region hosts as many species as the adjacent Coral Triangle, despite a much smaller reef area.

Coral reefs in the South China Sea are increasingly being degraded by coastal development and overexploitation, thus these results have vital implications for conservation. Based on the remarkable richness and variability of stony corals here, it is clear that a much higher level of scientific and conservation attention is warranted for the region.


Coral reefs in the South China Sea Large Marine Ecosystem, such as those in Singapore, are much richer than previously thought, but they are severely understudied. Shown here is the reef at Pulau Satumu (Raffles Lighthouse), Singapore. [Image credit: Huang Danwei]


1. Huang D, Licuanan WY, Hoeksema BW, Chen CA, Ang PO, Huang H, Lane DJW, Vo ST, Waheed Z, Affendi YA, Yeemin T, Chou LM. “Extraordinary diversity of reef corals in the South China Sea.” Marine Biodiversity. 45 (2015) 157–168.