Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 331–344 | Cite as

Conservation of reef corals in the South China Sea based on species and evolutionary diversity

  • Danwei HuangEmail author
  • Bert W. Hoeksema
  • Yang Amri Affendi
  • Put O. Ang
  • Chaolun A. Chen
  • Hui Huang
  • David J. W. Lane
  • Wilfredo Y. Licuanan
  • Ouk Vibol
  • Si Tuan Vo
  • Thamasak Yeemin
  • Loke Ming Chou
Original Paper


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.


IUCN Red List Marine biodiversity Phylogenetic diversity Rarity Scleractinia Species richness 



We thank Zarinah Waheed for helping to verify the data, and Kaustuv Roy for ideas and advice. This work was supported by NUS Start-up Grant R-154-000-671-133.

Supplementary material

10531_2016_1052_MOESM1_ESM.xls (80 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLS 80 kb)
10531_2016_1052_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (124 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 124 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Danwei Huang
    • 1
    Email author
  • Bert W. Hoeksema
    • 2
  • Yang Amri Affendi
    • 3
  • Put O. Ang
    • 4
  • Chaolun A. Chen
    • 5
    • 6
  • Hui Huang
    • 7
    • 8
  • David J. W. Lane
    • 9
  • Wilfredo Y. Licuanan
    • 10
  • Ouk Vibol
    • 11
  • Si Tuan Vo
    • 12
  • Thamasak Yeemin
    • 13
  • Loke Ming Chou
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological Sciences and Tropical Marine Science InstituteNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore
  2. 2.Naturalis Biodiversity CenterLeidenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Institute of Biological Sciences, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of MalayaKuala LumpurMalaysia
  4. 4.Marine Science LaboratoryChinese University of Hong KongHong Kong SarChina
  5. 5.Biodiversity Research Center and Taiwan International Graduate ProgramAcademia SinicaTaipeiTaiwan
  6. 6.Institute of OceanographyNational Taiwan UniversityTaipeiTaiwan
  7. 7.Tropical Marine Biological Research Station in HainanSanyaChina
  8. 8.Key Laboratory of Marine Bio-resources Sustainable UtilizationSouth China Sea Institute of Oceanology, CASGuangzhouChina
  9. 9.Department of Biological SciencesUniversiti Brunei DarussalamBandar Seri BegawanBrunei Darussalam
  10. 10.Br. Alfred Shields FSC Ocean Research Center and Biology DepartmentDe La Salle UniversityManilaThe Philippines
  11. 11.Department of Fisheries Conservation, Fisheries AdministrationMinistry of Agriculture, Forestry and FisheriesPhnom PenhCambodia
  12. 12.Institute of OceanographyVietnam Academy of Science and TechnologyNha TrangVietnam
  13. 13.Marine Biodiversity Research Group, Department of BiologyRamkhamhaeng UniversityBangkokThailand

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