Ecological Study for Pui O, Shui Hau, Tai O and Neighbouring Areas
As Lantau is endowed with a wide variety of natural habitats, rich biodiversity and species of animals and plants with conservation value, the Government attaches great importance to its conservation. The Ecological Study for Pui O, Shui Hau, Tai O and Neighbouring Areas was initiated two years ago to evaluate the existing ecological situation of Lantau and to explore appropriate conservation measures. In early March, I invited a colleague from the Sustainable Lantau Office (SLO) under the Civil Engineering and Development Department and an ecology consultant to Pui O to share with us the objective, progress and preliminary results of the study.
Exploring appropriate conservation measures
According to Mr CHOW Hing-yin, Stephen, Conservation Officer of the SLO, the related study aims to review and consolidate systemically the existing ecological information of the three priority sites – Pui O, Shui Hau and Tai O – and the neighbouring areas, as well as to conduct detailed ecological surveys in the three priority sites to assess their current conditions and the existing ecological impact on these sites, so that the Government can prescribe the right remedy and explore feasible conservation proposals. The SLO also targets to gradually set up an ecological database for Lantau using the ecological data collected.
Pui O – an area of high ecological value
A consultant had conducted ecological surveys in the three priority sites for 12 months. After detailed analysis, the overall ecological significance of Pui O, Shui Hau and Tai O has been ranked high, very high, and medium to high respectively. Quoting Pui O as an example, the ecology consultant, Philip, says that Pui O has diverse habitats of ecological significance, such as wetlands, streams and woodlands, with rich biodiversity. The survey recorded more than 500 species of flora and fauna, including some relatively rare species such as the golden birdwing and the three-striped grass frog.
According to Philip, the study has also made us better understand the relationship between different kinds of habitats and their importance. For example, Pui O has a sizeable chunk of representative lowland freshwater wetlands, which are rarely found in Hong Kong, providing resting and foraging grounds for wildlife, particularly wetland-dependent birds and amphibians, as well as a nurturing ground for some rare aquatic plants such as the Water Fern. In addition, its freshwater marshes are especially vital. The study has found that these marshes, together with the adjoining habitats, serve as important habitats for waterbirds on Lantau. Recognised as an Ecologically Important Stream, the Pui O Stream is closely linked with the adjoining wetlands to perform various ecological functions.
Shui Hau and Tai O rich in biodiversity
Similarly, Shui Hau possesses various habitats of high ecological value, such as sandflat, wetlands, woodlands and streams, with rich biodiversity. More than 560 species of flora and fauna were recorded during the ecological survey, including some rare or endangered species like the Romer’s Tree Frog and Metallic Cerulean. The uninterrupted transition of natural habitats and landscape from land to sea at Shui Hau is very rarely seen in Hong Kong. The sandflat in Shui Hau is also important breeding and nursery ground for the endangered Chinese horseshoe crabs. Furthermore, the survey conducted in Tai O also recorded more than 400 species of flora and fauna. The habitats such as mangroves, marshes and reedbeds form an important ecosystem there.
After completing the ecological surveys, the consultant is now assessing the existing ecological impact on the three priority sites and will put forward suggestions on conservation measures. Measures under consideration include carrying out conservation management work in the locations of higher ecological value, for example, restoring degraded wetlands and removing invasive species. Moreover, apart from Pui O, Shui Hau and Tai O, the Government will conduct ecological surveys in other neighbouring areas in batches while at the same time pursuing the existing conservation work, which include the preparatory work for setting up the Lantau Conservation Fund.
There has been growing public concern on conservation in recent years. As a mature and advanced society, we should really treasure the natural environment in Hong Kong. Regarding the ways of conservation, we believe that it is like the relationships among people: when you find someone precious, you will know how to treasure and protect him/her. I look forward to working with you to shape a sustainable Lantau.
12 April, 2020