September 16, 2015

“Building new manmade islands on top of shallow reefs is smothering them with sediment, and turning clear water muddy – the environmental damage is substantial and unprecedented in scale.”

Guardian High-resolution satellite images of the South China Sea have revealed a colossal and rapid destruction of some of the world’s most biodiverse coral reefs as China races to turn the pristine habitats into military outposts. by Oliver Holmes

'Prof​​ John McManus, a leading marine biologist who analysed the images, has told the Guardian the loss of thousands of acres of reef in recent years constitutes the quickest rate of permanent loss of coral reef area in human history.

'“Our generation holds temporary responsibility for passing these highly diverse and incredibly beautiful coral reef atolls to future generations,” McManus says. “We have failed miserably.”

'Six countries – China, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Brunei – have competing claims to the more than 250 islands, reefs and sandbars in the South China Sea. The islands are mostly uninhabited but rapid reclamation is endangering ecosystems that are key to maintaining world fish stocks and biodiversity.

'The island-building is expanding. This week, new photos show China is constructing a third airstrip on reclaimed territory, giving it an even greater reach in the area.'

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