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Huang D.,University of Iowa | Huang D.,National University of Singapore | Licuanan W.Y.,De La Salle University - Manila | Hoeksema B.W.,Naturalis Biodiversity Center | And 12 more authors.
Marine Biodiversity | Year: 2015

The South China Sea in the Central Indo-Pacific is a large marine region that spans an area of more than 3 million km2 bounded by the coastlines of ten Asian nation states and contains numerous small islands. Although it abuts the western border of the Coral Triangle, the designated centre of maximum marine biodiversity, the South China Sea has received much less scientific and conservation attention. In particular, a consolidated estimate of the region’s scleractinian reef coral diversity has yet to emerge. To address this issue, we assemble a comprehensive species distribution data set that comprises 16 reef areas spread across the entire South China Sea. Despite containing less than 17 % of the reef area as compared to the Coral Triangle, this region hosts 571 known species of reef corals, a richness that is comparable to the Coral Triangle’s based on a standardised nomenclatural scheme. Similarity profile analysis and non-metric multidimensional scaling demonstrate that most areas are compositionally distinct from one another and are structured according to latitude but not longitude. More broadly, this study underscores the remarkable and unexpected diversity of reef corals in the South China Sea. © 2014, Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.

Huang D.,National University of Singapore | Hoeksema B.W.,Naturalis Biodiversity Center | Affendi Y.A.,University of Malaya | Ang P.O.,Chinese University of Hong Kong | And 10 more authors.
Biodiversity and Conservation | Year: 2016

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. © 2016, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.

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