Our research focuses on the biology, ecology and restoration of coral ecosystems in Hong Kong, a marginal environment for coral growth. Take some time to explore the blog, read something interesting, and feel free to reach out if you would like to collaborate on a project together!
© Coral Academy
Restoration of degraded Hong Kong coral habitats using multiple active coral restoration approaches
Funded by: PEW Fellowship in Marine Conservation, Environmental and Conservation Fund (listed in no particular order)
Coral reefs around the world are in dramatic decline in the face of climate change and anthropogenic disturbances. Currently, most efforts in reef restoration have focused on using asexual propagation of coral, i.e. fragmentation of source colonies for transplantation. This approach relies heavily on the availability of existing corals from the natural environment and is limited by genetic diversity of the source colonies. Taking advantage of the high fecundity of most corals, sexual propagation approach has negligible damage to source colonies and offers the promise of greater genetic diversity of the transplanted coral colonies that is likely to improve the adaptive potential of these corals to future disturbance. This study utilizes multiple active coral restoration approaches for coral restoration in Tolo Harbour and Channel in northeastern Hong Kong, including sexual and asexual coral propagation, ex-situ coral nursery, and larval enhancement technique, in degraded coral areas to mitigate population declines of corals, enhance biodiversity, and promote reef resilience to cope with future climate change. This will be the first time that multiple active coral restoration strategies will be employed in Hong Kong to serve as a foundation for larger scale restoration efforts in the future.
© Coral Academy
Diversity and abundance of ahermatypic Scleractinia in Hong Kong
Funded by: Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department
Hong Kong, located in southern China on the northern part of the South China Sea region, is a marginal place for coral growth because of its large fluctuation in environmental conditions, including temperature and salinity. Nevertheless, Hong Kong supports extensive coral communities, with a high coral diversity of at least 84 species of hermatypic Scleractinia (reef-building stony corals) in 28 genera recorded. This diversity is higher than that reported for the whole Caribbean region. However, ahermatypic Scleractinia (non-reef-building stony corals), which belong to the same family, remain poorly studied. This group of corals, unlike many other hermatypic Scleractinian corals, lack symbiotic algae (zooxanthellae) and solely depend on planktonic food for nutrition. In this study, we conduct a quantitative investigation on the diversity and abundance of ahermatypic Scleractinia in Hong Kong waters, and to compile a comprehensive checklist of and photo guide for ahermatypic scleractinian Hong Kong, With all data collected, we will evaluate any spatial and temporal patterns in the composition and abundance of ahermatypic Scleractinia Hong Kong, and make management recommendations to the Government based on the findings of the study.
© Coral Academy
Environmental Tolerance of the Octocoral Guaiagorgia in Hong Kong
Funded by: Marine Ecology Enhancement Fund
Octocoral assemblages have a fundamental ecological role as a habitat that provides a complex three-dimensional structure to support high biodiversity. The octocoral Guaiagorgia sp. is found abundantly in Hong Kong's western waters but not elsewhere in other parts of the Hong Kong marine environment. While a study has recently confirmed it as a gonochoric broadcast spawner, however, the response of this gorgonian species to changes in environmental parameters is virtually unknown. Hong Kong western water is brackish with a large fluctuation in salinity due to the influence of Pearl River outflow. Hong Kong marine environment in general experiences large fluctuations in water temperature throughout the year as well. Evaluation of how Guaiagorgia sp. responds to changes in salinities and temperatures may therefore provide insights to explain its success in Hong Kong western waters. This information is essential in the design of a strategic plan for its conservation and protection.
© Coral Academy
Feasibility study of detecting local seahorse and pipefish species in the coastal area of Hong Kong by environmental DNA
Funded by: Marine Conservation Enhancement Fund
Global Syngnathidae populations are being threatened due to habitat destructions, pollution from human activities and bycatches using non-selective fishing methods. In order to conserve and protect these threatened species populations and their habitat, it is important to provide precise and scientific survey results for the Government to develop conservation management plans. A traditional way to conduct survey for the Syngnathidae species is through underwater visual observations by divers. This method is time-consuming and requires subsequent morphological identification of specimens based on taxonomic expertise, and also likely to be overlooked because they are small with camouflage and live in a low clarity environment. With the help of eDNA methods, the local Syngnathidae populations in all parts of Hong Kong can be systematically and comprehensively investigated in a way that is fast, safe and without habitat disturbances. This study will be the first substantial investigation on the local Syngnathidae populations using eDNA methods in Hong Kong, and results obtained will also facilitate nearby regions such as China and southeastern Asia.