In DepthEnvironment

China's island building is destroying reefs

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Science  25 Sep 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6255, pp. 1434
DOI: 10.1126/science.349.6255.1434

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Summary

The geopolitical maneuvering in the South China Sea (SCS) is taking a heavy toll on the marine environment, scientists believe. The Spratly or Nansha Islands, a cluster of coral reefs and atolls, has become the focus of a territorial dispute between China and its neighbors. To the dismay of other countries bordering the SCS, China claims most of the sea, and it is bolstering its claims with a massive landfilling effort to transform some of the atolls into full-fledged islands. The scale and speed of the effort emerged earlier this month, when the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., released high-resolution satellite photos showing that over the past 2 to 3 years, China has created 13 square kilometers of island area—abxzxout a quarter the size of Manhattan. In doing so, China has destroyed large areas of biodiverse reef that served as nurseries for fisheries throughout much of the SCS.

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