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The state of coral in Hong Kong by Oliver Petterson Stubbs

Sai Kung has some of the best and most easily accessible coral communities in Hong Kong. Though Hong Kong may not be a place most people would associate with coral reefs, it has a surprisingly diverse and healthy community of corals – with 84 species of coral out of around 800 species worldwide. In places like Tung Ping Chau, Kat O, Shelter Island, Chek Chau and Hoi Ha Wan on the northeastern coast of the New Territories we can find the highest concentration of coral in Hong Kong.

In these places, corals form more extensive communities and the massive corals, especially those belonging to the family Faviidae like the brain corals (Platygyra spp.) and honey comb corals (Favia and Favites spp.)

There are however some big threats to the corals of Hong Kong. Overfishing, destructive fishing practices, and pollution associated with coastal development are the biggest threats. Climate change also poses a large problem for coral reefs worldwide as well as here in Hong Kong. Corals are very sensitive to even small changes in temperature, salinity etc. so even a small rise in water temperature could cause mass bleaching of corals.

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Most corals have a symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellic algae, algae that live inside the coral and photosynthesize, generating energy for the polyps attached to the coral skeleton. These algae are responsible for the distinctive colours of coral.

 Coral bleaching is a process whereby the coral colonies lose their colour, either due to the loss of pigments by these microscopic algae, or because the zooxanthellae have been expelled.

 With July 2015 being the hottest month ever recorded the future of coral reefs will definitely be an uncertain one unless we get our act together to protect all marine life.

Coral reefs are an amazing spectacle of nature and with so many great places to go diving/ snorkelling in the Sai Kung area there really is no reason not to go out there and explore for yourself! Most corals in Hong Kong are at about 3-5 meters depth and close to shore, so snorkelling is an easy and cheap way to explore the coral reefs.

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