The Spratly Islands


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World Seas: An Environmental Evaluation Volume II: The Indian Ocean to the Pacific

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© 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. The Spratly Islands are a group of low islands, cays, banks, shoals, rocks, and reefs that are scattered in the southern South China Sea. They are found on the crest of uplifted fault blocks, known as horsts. Marine organisms colonized these crests and other shallow features to form reefs. The Spratly Islands are among the most productive, diverse, and possibly oil-rich region, globally. The reefs in the Spratly Islands have remained in good condition with an average coral cover of 65%. The disparity in habitat conditions and other ecological and oceanographic information are the basis of the idea that the Spratly Islands are a possible source of juveniles to the areas beyond its boundaries. Productivity and diversity in the area is high because of nutrient inputs from the wide continental shelves, promoted by reversing monsoons and the shifting cyclonic and anticyclonic ocean surface circulation patterns. Two-thirds of the 10 million tons annual fish catch from the South China Sea come from the Spratly Islands. The sediments east, southeast, and west of the Spratly Islands suggest that the area may be favorable for the formation of oil and gas reserves. Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam claim all of part of the Spratly Islands to conduct oil and gas explorations, develop the islands, and expand their fisheries. Closely intertwined in the discussion of sovereignty are concerns over the right of free passage through this major trade route between countries in Asia and the rest of the world. Scientific cooperation and joint agreements among states may assist in reducing tension over competing claims over the Spratly Islands. In addition, the area may be designated as an international marine park to ensure that the benefits from the productivity continue.


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Biology | Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


Spratly Islands; Coral reefs and islands--Spratly Islands; Coral Triangle; Boundary disputes

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