Journal of Ocean University of China

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 763–772 | Cite as

Numerical Simulation for Shallow Strata Stability of Coral Reef in the Southwest of Yongshu Reef (South China Sea)

  • Qinqin Tang
  • Jinchang Zhang
  • Yingci Feng
  • Jian Li
  • Yantao Yao
  • Jie Sun
  • Wenhuan Zhan


In recent years, infrastructure construction on coral reefs has been increasingly developed. Therefore, the shallow strata stability of coral reefs in the South China Sea should be evaluated. This study aims to investigate the profiles for the shallow strata of coral reefs in the southwest of the Yongshu Reef, particularly in the hydrodynamic marine environment, and to establish a geological model for numerical simulation using Geo-Studio. The shallow strata of the coral reefs include mass gravel, sand gravel, mid-coarse sand, silty sand, fine sand, and reef limestone. The shallow reef slope near the lagoon is similar to a ‘layer cake’, in which the side close to the sea is analogous to a ‘block cake’. The simulation results showed that coral reef stability depends on wave loads and earthquake strength and on the physical properties of coral reefs. The factor of safety for the outer reef is greater than 10.0 under static, wave, and seismic conditions; this indicated that the outer reefs were less affected by waves and earthquakes. However, the factor of safety next to the lagoon varied from 0.1 to 5.3. The variation was primarily caused by the thick strata of coral reefs close to the sea (reef limestone, typically with the thickness > 10 m and equivalent to a block). The soil and rock layers in the coral reef strata with thicknesses < 10 m showed weak engineering geological characteristics. Our findings can provide useful information to future construction projects on coral reefs.

Key words

coral reefs rock mass structure stability evaluation numerical simulation 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.



This work was funded by the Science and Technology Basic Resources Investigation Program of China (No. 2017 FY201406), the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (No. XDA13010104), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 41376063, 41606069 and 41776058), the National Basic Research Program of China (No. 2013CB956104), and the Natural Science Foundation of Guangdong Province in China (Nos. 2015A030310374 and 2017A030313243). We thank the anonymous reviewers for careful and constructive comments that helped to improve the manuscript significantly.


  1. Aydan, O., 2016. Large rock slope failures induced by recent earthquakes. Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering, 49 (6): 2503–2524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barnes, B. B., and Hu, C. M., 2016. Island building in the South China Sea: Detection of turbidity plumes and artificial islands using landsat and modis data. Scientific Reports, 6: 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Chen, J. C., 1993. Tectonophysical features and seismic intensity regionalization of the South China Sea area. Northwestern Seismological Journal, 15 (1): 103–108.Google Scholar
  4. Dawson, E. M., Roth, W. H., and Drescher, A., 1999. Slope stability analysis by strength reduction. Geotechnique, 49 (6): 835–840.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Feng, W. M., 2005. Microgastropod trophic structure of the Yongshu Reef, South China Sea, since the late Pleistocene in relation to paleoenvironment. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences, 25 (2): 291–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Gao, Y. F., Xie, K. H., and Zeng, G. X., 2000. The seismic attenuation regularities in the moderate-strong earthquake area. Journal of Zhejiang University (Engineering Science), 34 (4): 404–408 (in Chinese with English abstract).Google Scholar
  7. GEO-SLOPE International Ltd., 2008. Dynamic Modeling with QUAKE/W 2007. An Engineering Methodology. 3rd edition. Calgary, Alberta, 237pp.Google Scholar
  8. GEO-SLOPE International Ltd., 2008. Seepage Modeling with SEEP/W 2007. An Engineering Methodology. 3rd edition. Calgary, Alberta, 305pp.Google Scholar
  9. GEO-SLOPE International Ltd., 2008. Stability Modeling with SLOPE/W 2007 Version. An Engineering Methodology. 3rd edition. Calgary, Alberta, 355pp.Google Scholar
  10. GEO-SLOPE International Ltd., 2008. Stress-Deformation Modeling with SIGMA/W 2007. An Engineering Methodology. 3rd edition. Calgary, Alberta, 322pp.Google Scholar
  11. Guo, Z. H., 2013. A study on the ocean exploitation and disputes in the Persian Gulf region. Master thesis. Zhengzhou University, (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  12. Guo, Z. J., Qin, B. Y., Guo, A. N., and Liu, W. Y., 1999. A correction of the seismic zoningmap of sea areas in China and its vicinity. Northwestern Seismological Journal, 21 (1): 100–102 (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  13. Hu, Z., Tang, W. Y., Xue, H. X., and Zhang, X. Y., 2015. Numerical wave tank based on a conserved wave-absorbing method. China Ocean Engineering, 30 (1): 137–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Jiang, X. L., Zou, Q. P., and Zhang, N., 2017. Wave load on submerged quarter-circular and semicircular breakwaters under irregular waves. Coastal Engineering, 121: 265–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Li, J. G., 2005. Experimental research on dynamic behavior of saturated calcaerous sand under wave loading. PhD thesis. Institute of Rock and Soil Mechanics, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  16. Li, W. B., and Zhao, J., 2010. The seasonal characteristics of waves in Nansha Islands. Guangdong Meteorology, 32 (2): 24–26 (in Chinese with English abstract).Google Scholar
  17. Liu, M., Liu, B., Nian, T. K., Yin, P., and Song, L., 2015. Numerical analysis of the failure mechanism of submarine slopes under linear wave loading. China Earthquake Engineering Journal, 37 (2): 415–421 (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  18. Liu, X. D., 2015. The main changes of the new national standard ‘China ground motion parameter zoning map’ (GB 18306-2015). China Standards Review, 2015 (9): 23–26 (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  19. Liu, Z. R., 1982. Computational investigatlon on fuzzy relation between earthquake intensity and peak acceleration of ground motion. Earthquake Engineering and Engineering Vibration, 2 (3): 29–42 (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  20. Long, C. H., Lai, M., Yu, H., and Li, D. H., 2011. Study on the correction between effective peak ground acceleration and seismic intensity. Earthquake Research in Sichuan, 2: 26–31 (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  21. Ma, F. F., 2005. Study on the seismic stability of slope based on time history analysis method and finite element method. Master thesis. Dalian University of Technology, Dalian (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  22. Mao, W., Yan, E. C., Cao, Y. B., and Jiang, S. L., 2011. Simulation of landslide seepage field with the action of reservoir water fluctuations. Applied Materials and Civil Engineering, 71-78: 4802–4807.Google Scholar
  23. Meier, J., Moser, M., Datcheva, M., and Schanz, T., 2013. Numerical modeling and inverse parameter estimation of the large-scale mass movement Gradenbach in Carinthia (Austria). Acta Geotechnica, 8 (4): 355–371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Meng, Q. S., Qin, Y., and Shen, J. H., 2013. Dynamic characteristics of a calcareous sand: Yongshu Reef, Spratly Islands, China. Disaster Advances, 6: 490–497.Google Scholar
  25. Meng, Q. S., Yu, K. F., Wang, R., Qin, Y., Wei, H. Z., and Wang, X. Z., 2014. Characteristics of rocky basin structure of Yongshu Reef in the southern South China Sea. Marine Georesources & Geotechnology, 32 (4): 307–315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Nansha Integrated Scientific Expedition of Chinese Academy of Sciences, 1997. Coral Reef Engineering Geology of Nansha Islands. Chinese Sience Press, Beijing, 1–169 (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  27. Raj, M., and Sengupta, A., 2014. Rain-triggered slope failure of the railway embankment at Malda, India. Acta Geotechnica, 9 (5): 789–798.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Rougerie, F., and Wauthy, B., 1993. The endo-upwelling concept: From geothermal convection to reef construction. Coral Reefs, 12 (1): 19–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Shan, H. G., Wang, R., and Zhou, Z. H., 2000. Yongshu Reef engineering geology of Nansha Islands. Marine Geology & Quaternary Geology, 20 (3): 31–36 (in Chinese with English abstract).Google Scholar
  30. Song, Z. F., Ma, T., and Zhao, Z. Y., 2016. Stability analysis of tailing dam based on Geo-studio. Proceedings of the 2015 International Conference on Architectural, Civil and Hydraulics Engineering, 44: 380–386.Google Scholar
  31. Sun, Z. X., and Huang, D. C., 1999. Research progresses on coral reef engineering geology. Advance in Earth Sciences, 14 (6): 77–581 (in Chinese with English abstract).Google Scholar
  32. Taylor, F. W., Frohlich, C., Lecolle, J., and Strecker, M., 1987. Analysis of partially emerged corals and reef terraces in the central Vanuatu arc: Comparison of contemporary coseismic and nonseismic with Quaternary vertical movements. Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth and Planets, 92 (B6): 4905–4933.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. The Editorial Board of Manual of Engineering Geology, 2007. Manual of Engineering Geology. 4th edition. China Building Industry Press, 1099pp (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  34. Wang, S. C., Geller, R. J., Stein, S., and Taylor, B., 1979. Intraplate thrust earthquake in the South China Sea. Journal of Geophysical Research, 84 (NB10): 5627–5631.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Wang, T. T., Liang, G. J., Zhou, Z. L., Cui, D. J., and Wen, A. P., 2012. Analysis of the wave characteristics at Yongshu Reef. Marine Science Bulletin, 31 (3): 278–282 (in Chinese with English abstract).Google Scholar
  36. Wang, X. Z., 2008. Study on engineering geological properties of coral reefs and feasibility of large project construction on Nansha Islands. PhD thesis. Institute of Rock and Soil Mechanics, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  37. Wang, X. Z., Jiao, Y. Y., Wang, R., Hu, M. J., Meng, Q. S., and Tan, F. Y., 2011. Engineering characteristics of the calcareous sand in Nansha islands, South China Sea. Engineering Geology, 120 (1): 40–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Wang, Y. Z., Yan, Z., and Wang, Y. C., 2016. Numerical analyses of caisson breakwaters on soft foundations under wave cyclic loading. China Ocean Engineering, 30: 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Wei, B. L., 2001. Discussion on epicenter and magnitude of earthquake (M=6(3/4)) in the north of the Xisha Islands of South China Sea in 1931. South China Journal of Seismology, 21 (1): 43–48 (in Chinese with English abstract).Google Scholar
  40. Wen, F., and Wang, J. H., 2014. Stability analysis of layered seabed under wave and current loading. Journal of Shanghai Jiao Tong Unjversity, 48 (6): 793–798 (in Chinese with English abstract).Google Scholar
  41. Wu, J. L., Zhang, Y. X., and Peng, N. A., 2011. The seismic stability numerical analysis of embankment high slope with different filling. In: Advanced Transportation. Applied Mechanics and Materials, 97-98: 49–54.Google Scholar
  42. Xu, H. L., Qiu, X. L., Zhao, M. H., Sun, J. L., and Zhu, J. J., 2006. Characteristics of the crustal structure and hypocentral tectonics in the epicentral area of Nan’ao earthquake (M7.5), the northeastern South China Sea. Chinese Science Bulletin, 51: 95–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Yang, Z. Q., and Zhao, W., 1996. Engineering geological exploration method and clastic soil types in coral reefs. In: The Proceedings of Geological and Geophysical Study in Nansha Islands and Their Adjacent Sea Areas. Science Press, Beijing, 181–188 (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  44. Yu, K. F., Zhao, J. X., Shi, Q., Zhong, J. L., and Chen, T. G., 2003. New insights into biological-geomorphological sedimentary zones and environment records at the southwest reef bracelet of Yongshu Reef, Nansha Islands. Marine Geology & Quaternary Geology, 23 (4): 1–7 (in Chinese with English abstract).Google Scholar
  45. Yu, M. G., 1984. Analysing the characteristics of wave distribution in the South China Sea on the basis of ship reports. Marine Science Bulletin, 3 (4): 1–8 (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  46. Yuan, Z., Yu, K. F., Wang, Y. H., Meng, Q. S., and Wang, R., 2016. Research progress in the engineering geological characteristics of coral reefs. Tropical Geography, 36 (1): 87–93 (in Chinese with English abstract).Google Scholar
  47. Zhan, W. H., Yao, Y. T., Sun, Z. X., Zhan, M. Z., Sun, L. T., Liu, Z. F., and Zhang, Z. Q., 2006. The crustal movement information in the process of coral reef development in the northwestern of South China Sea. Chinese Science Bulletin, 51 (suppl 2): 78–82 (in Chinese with English abstract).Google Scholar
  48. Zhao, H. T., and Song, C. J., 1993. The Problems of Environment, Resources and Development in Nansha islands, Coastal Resources Engineering and Economic Development in China. Seismological Press, Beijing, 47–55 (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  49. Zhao, H. T., Sha, Q. A., and Zhu, Y. Z., 1992. Quaternary Coral Reef Geology of Yongshu Reef, Nansha Islands. Ocean Press, Beijing, 1–264 (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  50. Zhao, H. T., Song, C. J., Lu, B., Wang, R., and Yang, Z. Q., 1996b. A preliminary exposition of coral reef engineering geology, A new researeh field: Coral reef engineering geology. Journal of Engineering Geology, 4 (1): 86–90 (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  51. Zhao, H. T., Sun, Z. X., Song, C. J., Zhu, Y. Z., Chen, X. S., and Sha, Q. A., 1996a. The change of sea-level of Yongshu Reef in Nansha Islands since 900,000 years B.P. Chinese Journal of Oceanogrphy and Limnology, 27 (3): 264–270 (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  52. Zhao, S., Zheng, Y., and Deng, W., 2003. Stability analysis on jointed rock slope by strength reduction FEM. Chinese Journal of Rock Mechanics and Engineering, 22 (2): 254–260.Google Scholar
  53. Zheng, C. W., Lin, G., Sun, Y., and Yang, S., 2012. Simulation of wave energy resources in the South China Sea during the past 22 years. Journal of Tropical Oceanography, 31 (6): 13–19 (in Chinese with English abstract).Google Scholar
  54. Zheng, C. W., Zhou, L., and Zhou, L. J., 2011. Seasonal variation of wave and wave energy in Xisha and Nansha sea area. Advances in Marine Science, 29 (4): 419–426 (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  55. Zheng, Y., and Zhao, S., 2002. Slope stability analysis by strength reduction FEM. Engineering Science, 4 (10): 57–61.Google Scholar
  56. Zhou, L. M., Wu, L. Y., Guo, P. F., and Wang, A. F., 2007. Simulation and study of wave in South China Sea using WAVEWATCH-III. Journal of Tropical Oceanography, 26 (5): 1–8 (in Chinese with English abstract).Google Scholar
  57. Zhu, C. Q., Qin, Y., Meng, Q. S., Wang, X. Z., and Wang, R., 2014. Formation and sedimentary evolution characteristics of yongshu atoll in the South China Sea islands. Ocean Engineering, 84: 61–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Zhu, Y. Z., Sha, Q. A., Guo, L. F., Yu, K. F., and Zhao, H. T., 1997. Cenozoic Coral Reef Geology of Yongshu Reef. Nansha Islands. Chinese Science Press, Beijing, 1–134 (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  59. Zong, F. Y., 2014. Research on distributions and variations of sea wave and wave energy in South China Sea during 20 years. Master thesis. Ocean University of China, Qingdao (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  60. Zou, Y., 2012. A macroscopic model for predicting the relative hydraulic permeability of unsaturated soils. Acta Geotechnica, 7 (2): 129–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Science Press, Ocean University of China and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Qinqin Tang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jinchang Zhang
    • 1
  • Yingci Feng
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jian Li
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yantao Yao
    • 1
  • Jie Sun
    • 1
  • Wenhuan Zhan
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Ocean and Marginal Sea Geology, CASGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

Personalised recommendations