Re ECF Project: 2014-64

Project Title: Assessing the marine biodiversity and ecology of Tolo Harbour and Channel, with particular reference to coastal marine environments of Ting Kok and Shuen Wan Hoi – phase I

Applicant: Professor Gray A WILLIAMS, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Hong Kong

Total Approved Grant: $4,233,490

Duration: 1/10/2015 to 31/3/2017

Project Status/Remarks: Completed

This proposed study is one of the core initiatives recommended in the Ting Kok Plus Conservation Plan established by the Hong Kong SAR Government. The study area will cover the major ecological habitats and macro-organism groups in the Tolo area (Tolo Harbour and Channel). The study will be for three years to cover at least two consecutive years of field surveys that will enable us to scientifically compare seasonal variations in terms of species richness, abundance and biomass in different habitats. The overarching goal of the project is to provide a holistic picture of the current ecological status as well as the economic value of marine resources, and to identify important or vulnerable species and significant habitats in the Tolo area through standardized scientific methodologies. This is intended to be a Phase I project of a two-phase study. The Phase II of this project is 2016-79.

Summary of the Findings/Outcomes:

This project involved 20 local marine scientists and an environmental economist, forming a joint institutional team to study the marine biodiversity and ecology of local marine waters. The multi-institutional team investigated the marine biodiversity and ecology of Tolo Harbour and Channel from October 2015 to March 2017, covering various coastal habitats and taxa. To achieve this, the team established scientifically representative methodologies which can be used for future biodiversity surveys. A total of 890 marine species (and 104 waterbirds) have been recorded, accounting for 15% of the total marine species in Hong Kong. As a highlight, the group led by Dr. Stefano Cannicci (The University of Hong Kong) found a new tree-climbing micro-crab, which was named Haberma tingkok. This discovery was published in the international journal Zookeys. The team also documented the spatial and temporal variations of species diversity, and the occurrence of threatened/rare species including Hippocampus kuda (Vulnerable), Corvus torquatus (Near Threatened) and Upogebia major (Endangered). The team has updated the marine species database for Hong Kong, which will benefit research and educational purposes and will contribute towards the identification of biodiversity hotspots which will aid conservation and sustainable development. Public lectures and stakeholders’ meetings were held to facilitate knowledge exchange and public engagement. The team also trained 97 student helpers from 16 local and overseas universities who can contribute to marine science studies of Hong Kong.