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Concept: East China Sea


China’s seas cover nearly 5 million square kilometers extending from the tropical to the temperate climate zones and bordering on 32,000 km of coastline, including islands. Comprehensive systematic study of the marine biodiversity within this region began in the early 1950s with the establishment of the Qingdao Marine Biological Laboratory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Since that time scientists have carried out intensive multidisciplinary research on marine life in the China seas and have recorded 22,629 species belonging to 46 phyla. The marine flora and fauna of the China seas are characterized by high biodiversity, including tropical and subtropical elements of the Indo-West Pacific warm-water fauna in the South and East China seas, and temperate elements of North Pacific temperate fauna mainly in the Yellow Sea. The southern South China Sea fauna is characterized by typical tropical elements paralleled with the Philippine-New Guinea-Indonesia Coral triangle typical tropical faunal center.This paper summarizes advances in studies of marine biodiversity in China’s seas and discusses current research mainly on characteristics and changes in marine biodiversity, including the monitoring, assessment, and conservation of endangered species and particularly the strengthening of effective management. Studies of (1) a tidal flat in a semi-enclosed embayment, (2) the impact of global climate change on a cold-water ecosystem, (3) coral reefs of Hainan Island and Xisha-Nansha atolls, (4) mangrove forests of the South China Sea, (5) a threatened seagrass field, and (6) an example of stock enhancement practices of the Chinese shrimp fishery are briefly introduced. Besides the overexploitation of living resources (more than 12.4 million tons yielded in 2007), the major threat to the biodiversity of the China seas is environmental deterioration (pollution, coastal construction), particularly in the brackish waters of estuarine environments, which are characterized by high productivity and represent spawning and nursery areas for several economically important species. In the long term, climate change is also a major threat. Finally, challenges in marine biodiversity studies are briefly discussed along with suggestions to strengthen the field. Since 2004, China has participated in the Census of Marine Life, through which advances in the study of zooplankton and zoobenthos biodiversity were finally summarized.

Concepts: Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Coral reef, Ecosystem, Biodiversity, East China Sea, South China Sea, Climate


A new antibacterial chlorinated benzophenone derivative, (±)-pestalachloride D (1), along with a related analog, (±)-pestalachloride C (2), was recently isolated from the marine-derived fungus Pestalotiopsis sp. isolated from a soft coral Sarcophyton sp. collected from Yongxing Island in the South China Sea. Both chiral HPLC analysis and single-crystal X-ray data indicated that 1 is a racemic mixture. Interestingly, 1 did not exhibit any effect in the zebrafish embryo teratogenicity assay, while 2 led to abnormal growth. The potential impact on zebrafish embryo growth is discussed based on their crystal structures. The main difference of crystal structures between 1 and 2 is that the six-member non-aromatic ring (O4, C10, C9, C8, C2', and C3') in 1 exhibits a distorted chair conformation, while 2 shows a distorted boat conformation. Moreover, compounds 1 and 2 both exhibited moderate antibacterial activity.

Concepts: East China Sea, Solid, Adderall, Cyclohexane conformation, Racemic mixture, South China Sea, Enantiomer, Stereochemistry


Quaternary climatic cycles have influenced marine organisms' spatial distribution and population dynamics. This study aimed to elucidate the evolutionary influences of contemporary and glacial physical barriers on the population structure, demography and colonization history of the mudskipper (Periophthalmus modestus) based on a mitochondrial gene segment (ND5) from 131 individual fish sampled in the northwestern Pacific Ocean. The current Kuroshio Current and the glacial exposure of the Taiwan Strait appeared to have restricted migration among the South China Sea, coastal East China and Japan. However, genetic homogeneity (Nm>1) also suggested contemporary larval transportation by sea circulation between the East China Sea and the South China Sea or historical dispersal along the glacial exposed shoreline among China, Japan and the Ryukyu Islands. Evolutionary signals of the strengthened East Asian Summer Monsoon in the mid-Pleistocene and regional difference in intertidal primary productions were indicated by a late-Pleistocene population expansion of P. modestus with a higher effective population size in the South China Sea than in the East China Sea. Furthermore, a potential colonization origin from the South China Sea was consistently inferred by different clues, including the populations' coalescence times, the ancestral haplotype distribution, the number of private haplotypes and species/genetic diversity.

Concepts: Population, Population genetics, Population ecology, South China Sea, Japan, Taiwan, Pacific Ocean, East China Sea


It has long been hypothesized that acids formed from anthropogenic pollutants and natural emissions dissolve iron (Fe) in airborne particles, enhancing the supply of bioavailable Fe to the oceans. However, field observations have yet to provide indisputable evidence to confirm this hypothesis. Single-particle chemical analysis for hundreds of individual atmospheric particles collected over the East China Sea shows that Fe-rich particles from coal combustion and steel industries were coated with thick layers of sulfate after 1 to 2 days of atmospheric residence. The Fe in aged particles was present as a “hotspot” of (insoluble) iron oxides and throughout the acidic sulfate coating in the form of (soluble) Fe sulfate, which increases with degree of aging (thickness of coating). This provides the “smoking gun” for acid iron dissolution, because iron sulfate was not detected in the freshly emitted particles and there is no other source or mechanism of iron sulfate formation in the atmosphere.

Concepts: Iron, East China Sea, Climate, Atmosphere, Hydrogen, Ocean, Carbon dioxide, Oxygen


The South China Sea (SCS), the largest marginal sea in the Western Pacific Ocean, is a huge oligotrophic water body with very limited influx of nitrogenous nutrients. This suggests that sediment microbial N(2) fixation plays an important role in the production of bioavailable nitrogen. To test the molecular underpinning of this hypothesis, the diversity, abundance, biogeographical distribution, and community structure of the sediment diazotrophic microbiota were investigated at 12 sampling sites, including estuarine, coastal, offshore, deep-sea, and methane hydrate reservoirs or their prospective areas by targeting nifH and some other functional biomarker genes. Diverse and novel nifH sequences were obtained, significantly extending the evolutionary complexity of extant nifH genes. Statistical analyses indicate that sediment in situ temperature is the most significant environmental factor influencing the abundance, community structure, and spatial distribution of the sediment nifH-harboring microbial assemblages in the northern SCS (nSCS). The significantly positive correlation of the sediment pore water NH(4)(+) concentration with the nifH gene abundance suggests that the nSCS sediment nifH-harboring microbiota is active in N(2) fixation and NH(4)(+) production. Several other environmental factors, including sediment pore water PO(4)(3-) concentration, sediment organic carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus levels, etc., are also important in influencing the community structure, spatial distribution, or abundance of the nifH-harboring microbial assemblages. We also confirmed that the nifH genes encoded by archaeal diazotrophs in the ANME-2c subgroup occur exclusively in the deep-sea methane seep areas, providing for the possibility to develop ANME-2c nifH genes as a diagnostic tool for deep-sea methane hydrate reservoir discovery.

Concepts: Hydrogen, East China Sea, Pacific Ocean, Water, Archaea, Ocean, South China Sea, Bacteria


During 2013, severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome was diagnosed in 35 persons in South Korea. Environmental temperature probably affected the monthly and regional distribution of case-patients within the country. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that the isolates from Korea were closely related to isolates from China and Japan.

Concepts: East China Sea, World War II, Japanese war crimes, Developed country, East Asia, South Korea, Japan, Korea


Leprosy continues to be detected at near stable rates in China even with established control programs, necessitating new knowledge and alternative methods to interrupt transmission. A molecular epidemiology investigation of 190 patients was undertaken to define M. leprae strain types and discern genetic relationships and clusters in endemic and non-endemic regions spanning seventeen provinces and two autonomous regions. The findings support multiple locus variable number of tandem repeat (VNTR) analysis as a useful tool in uncovering characteristic patterns across the multiethnic and divergent geographic landscape of China. Several scenarios of clustering of leprosy from township to provincial to regional levels were recognized, while recent occupational or remote migration showed geographical separation of certain strains. First, prior studies indicated that of the four major M. leprae subtypes defined by single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), only type 3 was present in China, purportedly entering from Europe/West/Central Asia via the Silk Road. However, this study revealed VNTR linked strains that are of type 1 in Guangdong, Fujian and Guangxi in southern China. Second, a subset of VNTR distinguishable strains of type 3, co-exist in these provinces. Third, type 3 strains with rpoT VNTR allele of 4, detected in Japan and Korea were discovered in Jiangsu and Anhui in the east and in western Sichuan bordering Tibet. Fourth, considering the overall genetic diversity, strains of endemic counties of Qiubei, Yunnan; Xing Yi, Guizhou; and across Sichuan in southwest were related. However, closer inspection showed distinct local strains and clusters. Altogether, these insights, primarily derived from VNTR typing, reveal multiple and overlooked paths for spread of leprosy into, within and out of China and invoke attention to historic maritime routes in the South and East China Sea. More importantly, new concepts and approaches for prospective case finding and tracking of leprosy from county to national level have been introduced.

Concepts: Single-nucleotide polymorphism, Guangdong, Yuan Dynasty, Yi people, Yunnan, East China Sea, China, Yangtze River


Intensive fishing can strongly impact marine ecosystems; among other things, it usually causes the mean trophic level of the catches to decline, an indicator of the occurrence of the ‘fishing down’ (FD) phenomenon. Although FD occurs throughout the world oceans, it can easily be masked by diverse factors, which has misled authors as to its generality. In this contribution, which uses the East China Sea as an example, we explore the masking effect on FD of the taxonomic coarseness of catch data, of assuming that individual sizes remain constant after intensive fishing, and the geographic expansion of fisheries. The result showed that all of these masking factors occur in the East China Sea, where only a few species are reported separately and the bulk of the catch is pooled into non-informative ‘mixed fishes’. Also, the small mesh sizes and intensive fishing have reduced the sizes of fish and their trophic levels, while the fisheries have expanded offshore. Overall, taking the masking factors into account, the fishing down effect, i.e., the decline of the mean trophic level of the catch between 1979 and 2014 is in the order of 0.15 TL per decade, i.e., one of the highest estimates of FD in the world. Some ecological implications are presented.

Concepts: Biomass, Trophic dynamics, Trophic level, Fish, Food chain, East China Sea, Ecology, Fisheries


Seafloor massive sulphide deposits are potential resources for base and precious metals (Cu-Pb-Zn ± Ag ± Au), but difficulties in estimating precise reserves and assessing environmental impacts hinder exploration and commercial mining. Here, we report petrological and geochemical properties of sulphide chimneys less than 2 years old that formed where scientific boreholes vented hydrothermal fluids in the Iheya-North field, Okinawa Trough, in East China Sea. One of these infant chimneys, dominated by Cu-Pb-Zn-rich sulphide minerals, grew a height of 15 m within 25 months. Portions of infant chimneys are dominated by sulphate minerals. Some infant chimneys are sulphide-rich similar to high-grade Cu-Pb-Zn bodies on land, albeit with relatively low As and Sb concentrations. The high growth rate reaching the 15 m height within 25 months is attributed to the large hydrothermal vent more than 50 cm in diameter created by the borehole, which induced slow mixing with the ambient seawater and enhanced efficiency of sulphide deposition. These observations suggest the possibility of cultivating seafloor sulphide deposits and even controlling their growth and grades through manipulations of how to mix and quench hydrothermal fluids with the ambient seawater.

Concepts: Sedimentary rock, Mining, East China Sea, Mineral, Antimony, Sulfur, Geology, Hydrothermal vent


Indiscriminate and intense fishing has occurred in many marine ecosystems around the world. Although this practice may have negative effects on biodiversity and populations of individual species, it may also increase total fishery productivity by removing predatory fish. We examine the potential for this phenomenon to explain the high reported wild catches in the East China Sea-one of the most productive ecosystems in the world that has also had its catch reporting accuracy and fishery management questioned. We show that reported catches can be approximated using an ecosystem model that allows for trophic cascades (i.e., the depletion of predators and consequent increases in production of their prey). This would be the world’s largest known example of marine ecosystem “engineering” and suggests that trade-offs between conservation and food production exist. We project that fishing practices could be modified to increase total catches, revenue, and biomass in the East China Sea, but single-species management would decrease both catches and revenue by reversing the trophic cascades. Our results suggest that implementing single-species management in currently lightly managed and highly exploited multispecies fisheries (which account for a large fraction of global fish catch) may result in decreases in global catch. Efforts to reform management in these fisheries will need to consider system wide impacts of changes in management, rather than focusing only on individual species.

Concepts: Ecosystem, East China Sea, Biodiversity, Predation, Systems ecology, Ecology, Overfishing, Fisheries