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Huang D, Hoeksema B, Affendi Y, Ang P, Chen C, Huang H et al. (2016)
Biodiversity and Conservation.
The South China Sea in the Central Indo-Pacific is a large semi-enclosed marine region that supports an extraordinary diversity of coral reef organisms (including stony corals), which varies spatially across the region. While one-third of the world’s reef corals are known to face heightened extinction risk from global climate and local impacts, prospects for the coral fauna in the South China Sea region amidst these threats remain poorly understood. In this study, we analyse coral species richness, rarity, and phylogenetic diversity among 16 reef areas in the region to estimate changes in species and evolutionary diversity during projected anthropogenic extinctions. Our results show that richness, rarity, and phylogenetic diversity differ considerably among reef areas in the region, and that their outcomes following projected extinctions cannot be predicted by species diversity alone. Although relative rarity and threat levels are high in species-rich areas such as West Malaysia and the Philippines, areas with fewer species such as northern Vietnam and Paracel Islands stand to lose disproportionately large amounts of phylogenetic diversity. Our study quantifies various biodiversity components of each reef area to inform conservation planners and better direct sparse resources to areas where they are needed most. It also provides a critical biological foundation for targeting reefs that should be included in a regional network of marine protected areas in the South China Sea
Keywords: IUCN Red List, Marine biodiversity, Phylogenetic diversity, Rarity, Scleractinia, Species richness