The concept of a marine park is relatively new in Hong Kong, but most welcome and much needed. The core aims of marine park management are essentially the same as those designated for country parks, and are designed by the AFCD to promote nature conservation and facilitate outdoor recreation at sites of natural value.
Marine park management
The focus of marine park management is on extending the concepts of country park management into the coastal and immediate offshore marine environments. On a practical, regular basis AFCD
officers strive to maintain basic facilities and infrastructure to enable safe, enjoyable park appreciation in as natural ecological setting as possible.
These maintenance activities include both land and marine aspects. In both of the case studies you will encounter in this topic, Tung Ping Chau and Hoi Ha, the marine parks adjoin and merge with country parks. This, beautifully, makes a gentle transition between terrestrial intertidal and maritime ecosystems.
Happily, the closeness of these splendid marine parks of Tung Ping Chau and Hoi Ha to country parks can give the many mainly urban people of Hong Kong genuine access to an interconnected series of excellent ecosystems: terrestrial, littoral and submarine. Thus in one day a keen, active person can embrace vegetated landscapes, intertidal seashore habitats and the world beneath the mean low-tide mark which include corals, spectacular seafishes and sublittoral macroalgae. Together, Tung Ping Chau and Hoi Ha offer an interesting contrast between a rocky underwater seascape (Tung Ping Chau) and a quiet sandy seabed. This choice of contrasting ecosystems is excellent and does much to foster both appreciation of marine life and ecological understanding of the importance of habitat diversity within the coastal waters of the HKSAR.
We shall now look at both Tung Ping Chau and Hoi Ha in some detail and, as we do, the full range of natural resources will be identified. Broadly, these resources of nature include:
- biological diversity;
- ecological diversity, and
- geological diversity.
Some interrelationships between the ecological and the geological will be emphasized. These have recently emerged as a trend in conservation within Hong Kong and the links between eco and geo dimensions of nature can be spectacular.
Virtual tour: Tung Ping Chau and Hoi Ha Wan
Please now log onto the AFCD website .
Click the red flower entitled Country and Marine Parks, see the heading 'Visiting Country and Marine Parks,' select Marine Parks then Designated Marine Parks and Marine Reserve. Now you can see the Tung Ping Chau and Hoi Ha Wan sites. Tour both. I suggest that you visit both parks before you continue with a rather scientific exercise (in the next activity) based mainly on Tung Ping Chau, which will follow your tour and some reading.
As you participate in this virtual tour please notice these points in particular:
- The sizes (in ha) of Tung Ping Chau and Hoi Ha Wan.
- The geographic locations which are exposed to the more saline (salinities > 30ppt or parts per thousand or > 3.0% salt) and good quality waters away from the western influence of diluted sea water and pollutants from the Pearl River estuarine zone.
- Ecosystem diversities: Tung Ping Chau has submarine corals, spectacular algal beds (especially during winter) of around 65 species of green, red and brown algae (see Hodgkiss 1984 and Kong and Ang 2004) in rocky shore ecosystems, and 130 reef-associated fish species.
The biodiversity of Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park is impressive for its 260 ha. Mangroves, corals and a diverse range of marine invertebrates such as sponges, tubeworms, sea urchins and sea cumbers can be found, but (and this is potentially a big but) the conservation status of being only a marine park rather than a marine reserve may make biodiversity conservation at Tung Ping Chau and Hoi Ha Wan difficult to achieve. Can you suggest why? The fundamental reason is that some recreational fishing permits have been given for people to fish (take top or upper food chain predators from marine ecosystems) at Hoi Ha Wan. Furthermore, it is not always easy to control collecting of living things by children and ecologically-uneducated adults in marine parks.
The following video clip takes you to Hoi Ha Wan itself so that you can see how these principles are being applied, and how some graduates of the OUHK Environmental Studies programme are working to preserve this Park.
The next video takes you 'under the surface' at Hoi Ha Wan; you'll see how efforts are being made to enhance the marine environment with the aim of increasing the Park's biodiversity.
We shall return later to this important conservation question. In the meantime, as a student of environmental studies, please keep this park vs reserve issue in your mind.
With this short virtual tour done, let's now take our conservation to a higher level and consider in depth some of the ecology that lies behind and may be needed to scientifically manage resources like Tung Ping Chau and Hoi Ha Wan marine parks, or, in the future, we hope, as marine reserves. The higher level work will involve some set reading of three papers in marine ecology followed by a demanding but rewarding activity based on these readings.