Spratly islands

The Spratly Islands is an archipelago situated off the coasts of Malaysia, Philippines and southern Vietnam. These islands are a disputed group of 750 reefs, islets, atolls, cays and islands in the South China Sea. About 45 islands are occupied and claimed by relatively small numbers of military forces from China, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan. The islands are surrounded by rich fishing grounds and offer significant oil and natural gas reserves. These islands are one of the three archipelagos of the South China Sea which consist of more than 30,000 islands and reef, due to which there are complications regarding the governance in the region of Southeast Asia. These islands have little economic value in monetary terms but are important in establishing international boundaries.

How is the vegetation like in Spratly Islands?

The vegetation on the islands depends totally on the monsoons. The larger islands support tropical forests, coastal scrub, grasses and scrub forests. As there are no inhabitants besides the military personnel of different countries, it is difficult to find out which species have been introduced or cultivated by humans. Taiping Island is the largest island of the Spratly Islands that are covered with shrubs, coconuts and mangroves. But over the years the fertile soil and the arable land gave rise to the cultivation of Pineapple. In some of the islands papaya, palm, banana and white peach trees have also been growing.

Which unique animal and bird species inhabit the Spratly Islands?

Many sea birds and turtles inhabit the islands due to the little vegetation that grows on the islands. The endangered Green Turtle and Hawksbill turtle formerly inhabited the islands in large numbers. These species still continue to nest even on the islands that are inhabited by the military personnel. Sea bird species like Streaked Shearwater, Brown Booby, Red-Foot Booby, White Tern and the Crested Tern make use of the islands for resting, breeding and migrating. But over the years the population of the sea birds is declining as the birds are likely to divert to nesting sites that are smaller and less disturbed.

Green Turtle


Red-foot Booby
Which factors affect the bio-diversity of Spratly Islands?

There are various reasons that affect the native flora and fauna of the islands. Some of the common factors are tourism, political instability, disputes and industrialization of neighbouring countries. The turtle species on the islands have reduced over the years due to human activity in the same area or due to the slaughtering of Sea turtles for food. Commercial fishing is done heavily in this region, which poses a serious threat. Over the years, though it has been outlawed, but the fishing methods continue to include the use of bottom trawls fitted with chain rollers. In recent years, more than 200 kg of potassium cyanide was confiscated from the fisherman who had been using it for fish poisoning. Such commercial activities have a major impact on the local marine organism and the coral reefs. The military groups inhabiting in the islands have engaged in damaging the environment by activities like shooting turtles, sea birds and raiding nests and fishing with the use of explosives or poisonous substances. The collection of wood and medicinal plants is among the common threats that affect the entire bio-diversity of the region. Pollution, use of explosives and poisons affect the fishes and invertebrates.

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