Coral reefs off Taiwan’s coast have been severely damaged in the wake of Typhoon Morakot, requiring a hundred year recovery period as cited by one scientist. The deadly typhoon which struck the island in early August killed more than 600 people with many more missing or feared dead.
According to Academia Sinica, a Taipei-based scientific institution, the worst hit reefs are near that volcanic Orchid Island which is southeast of Taiwan. “Some of the shallow-water coral reefs look as if they’ve been crushed by road rollers,” said Chen Chaolun, a researcher at the institution. “They will need up to 100 years to recover.” The coverage of live coral in the area is estimated to be at less than 18 percent, down from the 68 percent before the typhoon. Mudflows from coastal areas and driftwood thrust into the sea by the typhoon are the chief cause of destruction. A record three meters of rain was recorded during Morakots fury, which led to deadly landslides and widespread flooding.
Coral reefs are produced by living organisms and are found mainly in tropical marine waters containing few nutrients. The nutrient recycling process between zooxanthellae , corals and other reef organisms allows the reefs to flourish and support an amazing biodiversity. Globally coral reefs are threatened by climate change, overuse of reef resources, ocean acidification and harmful land-use practices. Chen’s estimate of 100 years is based on halting pollution, aggressive development in coastal areas and overfishing. Any delay on implementing those changes will only lengthen the recovery period.