Taiwan's Coral Reefs

While only about 0.3% of the world’s oceans are coral reefs, their ecosystems are the most productive and biomass-rich (25%) in the entire ocean on the planet. Aside from the ecological advantages, coral reefs not only provide the livelihood needs of coastal residents; they sometimes even directly support the tourism industry of a country (e.g. Pacific Island countries). In addition, the presence of coral reefs also plays an important role in stabilizing the coastline by preventing the coast from receding due to erosion and flooding due to severe climate change events.

Taiwan Coral Reef/Coral Community Growth Locations

Taiwan’s coral reefs are distributed on outlying islands of 1) Lyudao, 2) Koto Island, 3) Xiao Liuqiu, 4) Penghu Islands, 5) Pratas Islands, 6) Nansha Islands; and, the main island of 1) Hengchun Peninsula, 2) the Northeast Coast, and 3) Sanxiantai. Taiwan’s coral reefs are mainly distributed in the outlying islands and the southern and eastern parts of the island. This is because there are too many rivers leading to the sea in the northern and western areas of Taiwan Island. The presence of those rivers is disadvantageous for the growth of coral reefs because there’ll be too much sediment downstream due to erosion. Furthermore, the deposition of sediments will cause water turbidity, so it is not suitable for coral reefs to live. Conversely, the clear waters in the east and outlying islands are where there are coral reefs in Taiwan.

The distribution of corals is affected by the climate and ocean currents. The distribution of corals in the country can be roughly divided into two groups: non-reefal coral communities and tropical coral reefs. Non-reefal coral communities are mainly located on the rocky shores of northern Taiwan, the inland and the northern sea of Penghu (where there are rocky shores, too). Because these coral colonies live in places where the water temperature is too low in winter, they won’t become coral reefs; however, in 1) southern Taiwan, 2) Lyudao, 3) Koto Island, 4) Xiao Liuqiu, 50 Penghu Island, 6) Pratas Islands, and 7) Nansha Islands where the temperature is more suitable for coral growth, the growth of corals is better.

Diversity of Corals in Taiwan

North East Coast

Although there is a Kuroshio warm current in the northeastern waters, the high latitude and northeast monsoon also limit the growth of coral reefs. Therefore, only coral communities will appear in that waters. Nevertheless, there are still many different species of corals in this area: smooth cauliflower coral, Foster’s tube star coral, Montipora tuberculosa, dark-green Tubastraea aurea, and Acropora Cerealis.

Among them, the Stylophora is the most common among all the 16,000 species of corals in the world. This type of coral is the best target for scientists who want to study coral physiology; its larvae often attach to drifts and travel hundreds of kilometers to bloom in different places. As a result, they are widely distributed in the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, Red Sea, Persian Gulf, and other waters.

Image 2: North East Coast Coral communities

East Coast

With the assistance of the Kuroshio warm current, the eastern coast has warm and clear waters. However, there are not many well-developed coral reefs on the coast where the Qingshui Cliff and other terrains with large height differences appear. This is because the strong winds and waves brought by the northeast monsoon will cause the seawater to shake violently. This shaking basically dismantles the buildings of coral reefs in the summertime, so it is difficult to produce coral reefs nor suitable for other coastal creatures to live in this area. In other words, there are relatively complete coral reefs in protected terrains (small waves) on the East Coast (e.g. Shitiping, Sanxiantai, Sugihara, and Xiaoyeliu). Common corals in this area include Acropora, Porites annae, staghorn coral, thin birdsnest coral, and smooth cauliflower coral.

Image 3: Platygyra daedalea (brain coral)

Hengchun Peninsula

Hengchun Peninsula has some high-level coral reefs in Kenting Forest Recreation Area, Guanshan, Dapingding and Eluanbi. These coral reefs have left the ocean level due to the rising of the crust and are estimated to have formed two million years ago. These high coral reef limestones are eroded by acid rain (Note: the increase in greenhouse gases is also related to the acidity of acid rain), forming many caves and stalactites and other karst topography. As for other low-lying coral reefs (in the sea), coral reefs formed relatively late, and are connected to the skirt coral reefs(fringing reef) in the sea today.

There are about 250 species of coral reefs on the Hengchun Peninsula, which is the place with the most diversified in Taiwan. Common ones are Acropora, encrusting pore coral), staghorn coral, smooth cauliflower Coral, thin birdsnest coral.

Image 4: Fringing Reef in the Hengchun Peninsula


Lyudao (aka Green Island)waters can be said to be the best place for coral reef growth in Taiwan. Lyudao is located in tropical waters with the Kuroshio flowing through it; moreover, Green Island is an outlying island (i.e. clear and clean water). In addition, due to monsoons, ocean currents and special seabed topography, the sea area next to Lyudao contains a lot of nutrients; making the marine biological resources near Lyudao quite rich. Therefore, although there are fewer coral species in the waters of Lyudao than Hengchun Peninsula, the development of coral reefs is really good.


Lanyu and Lyudao have similar conditions and are also very suitable for coral reef development. Most of the coastlines of Lanyu are continuous fringing reefs like the one in the Hengchun Peninsula. There are fewer coral species here than in the Hengchun Peninsula, the common species include Acropora, staghorn coral, thin birdsnest coral, Porites annae, and Favia speciosa.

Image 5: Lanyu Fringing Reef Topography

Xiao Liuqiu

Xiao Liuqiu itself is a coral reef island; the conditions are very suitable for coral reef growth (warm Kuroshio + no sediment + clear water). Ninety percent of the coastal areas are fringing reefs, and the rest are sandy beaches. The coral reefs of Xiao Liuqiu formed about 10,000 years ago; furthermore, the coast of this place is mostly in a platform shape, which is different from the uplifted coral reef coasts commonly found in Hengchun, Lanyu, and Lyudao.

Penghu Islands

The Penghu islands are volcanic islands. Due to good conditions (warm + no sediment + clear water), the outer coast has formed a large fringing reef. The coral reef area of Penghu is greater than the total area of all the other coral reef places in Taiwan. Nonetheless, there are not many types of coral reefs in the Penghu Islands. This is because the seawater temperature in this area is lower than the normal environment for coral growth in winter; thus, only some corals that can tolerate cold can survive. Common species in the Penghu Islands are also very common in other coral-reef-rich places.

Image 6: Coral bleaching in the Penghu Islands