Re ECF Project: 2012-19

Project Title: Revealing historical profile of marine ecological degradation in Hong Kong using paleoecological approaches

Applicant: Dr. Moriaki Yasuhara, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Hong Kong

Total Approved Grant: $500,000

Duration: 1/5/2014 to 30/4/2017

Project Status/Remarks: Completed

Through investigating the living, core-top, dead, and fossil ostracods, foraminifera, and bivalves in grab and core sediment samples, this project aims to:

  1. quantitatively evaluate the vulnerability of sub-tropical Hong Kong’s marine ecosystem against human-induced environmental changes;
  2. elucidate critical factor(s) for human-induced marine ecological degradation;
  3. develop ecosystem health index using paleoecological data; and
  4. reconstruct marine ecological degradation history and pre-impacted natural baseline for the past few hundreds of years in Hong Kong.

Summary of the Findings/Outcomes:

This research project revealed historical changes in marine ecological degradation in Hong Kong using paleoecological approaches for the first time. Microfossil ostracod and foraminifera as paleoecological proxies were studied. Main outcomes include:

  1. Ostracode list was completed with more than 100 species and Foraminiferal list was finished;
  2. Modern and sub-fossil assemblages were compared and found that Hong Kong benthic ecosystem had been affected by eutrophication;
  3. Showed that Bray–Curtis dissimilarity between modern and sub-fossil samples as well as other faunal characteristics could be a paleoecological proxies for ecosystem condition; and
  4. Re-constructed past pre-impacted microfossil communities in the Plover Cove Reservoir (in Tolo Harbour) before its construction. This freshwater reservoir was ocean (a small inlet of Tolo Harbour) formerly, and microfossils in sediment core told us marine benthic community at that time.

The research project showed that paleoecological approach using sediment cores are important for better understanding Hong Kong ecosystem history. The research results were presented in an international conference and two public lectures, and published in international scientific journal.