The Gulf of Thailand
The Gulf of Thailand is a semi-enclosed tropical sea located in the South China Sea, it is surrounded by Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. The Gulf covers roughly 320,000 km². The boundary of the Gulf is defined by the line from Cape Camau in southern Vietnam, south of the mouth of the Mekong River to the coastal city of Kota Bharu on the east coast of West Malaysia. It is particularly shallow; the mean depth is 45 m, and the maximum depth is only 80 m. The water temperature in November was 84 degrees Fahrenheit, or 29 degrees Celsius. The water in the gulf is warm year round. The gulf has some of the best diving because of the clear water. The average sea temperature is 28 degrees Celsius. The general shape of the Gulf’s bottom topography is considered elliptic parabolic. It is separated from the South China Sea by two ridges that limit water exchanges to the open South China Sea. The first ridge extends southeast from Cape Camou for about 60 nautical miles with an average sill depth of less than 25 m. The second ridge, which extends off Kota Bharu for approximately 90 nautical miles, has an average sill depth of 50 m. There is a narrow, deeper channel between the two ridges with the observed depth of 67 m. The Gulf can be divided into two portions, Upper Gulf and Lower Gulf. The Upper Gulf at the innermost area has an inverted U-shape. The Upper Gulf is known as the catchment basin of four large rivers on the northern side and two on the western coast. 1. FEATURES OF THE GULF OF THAILAND
Some of the physical and chemical features of the Gulf of Thailand include coral reefs, mineral resources and water quality. Coral reefs are havens, or safe places for many species and organisms. They are sensitive to pollution and are under threat from certain fishing practices. The main factors to coral destruction are the setting up of industrial parks and city expansion activities in the coastal areas. Petroleum hydrocarbon production was 957 million cubic feet of natural gas per day as recorded for the first quarter of 1997 by Unocal Thailand. 33,425 barrels of condensate Unocal has drilled over 1,000 wells and has 74 platforms under operation. The total length of underground sea pipeline is now over 1200 kilometers. Natural gas from the gulf supplies about 30 percent of the energy needs of Thailand, and at least 1,000 million cubic feet of natural gas is extracted from new fields per day. Water quality is fair along coastal areas and tourist beaches, except some locations at the mouth of Thailand’s five major rivers; the Chao Phraya River, Lesser Gulf River, Mekong River, Salawin River, and the Andaman River.
2. DEGRADATION OF THE GULF OF THAILAND COASTAL ECOSYSTEM
Primary productivity in the gulf is boosted by increased nutrients from rivers, shrimp farms and household sewage. Many cities have no sewage treatment and discharge directly into the gulf. More fertilizers are being used on agricultural lands, which eventually reach the gulf and contribute to the deterioration of water quality. Increases of nitrate, phosphate and silicate are causing harmful algal blooms, red tied, and oxygen depletion. Mercury is also responsible for pollution in the gulf. The Gulf of Thailand formerly supported extensive mangroves. Because of pollution and overfishing, as well as other factors the outcome is clear. These Mangroves are tree shrubs that grow in mainly tropical coastal swamps that are flooded at high tide. The delicate environment is an important source of vital nutrients for several organisms and are only found only on tropical coastlines. Though the mangroves are very important to the gulf, the largest areas have since been cleared for aquaculture and salt pans, only secondary mangrove still remains and is usually found as a narrow (10-l00 m) along the seaward margins. Extensive areas of low scrub are found...
References: The physical oceanography of the Gulf of Thailand, NAGA(Robinson, 1974) The use of Landsat-5 (TM) satellite images for tracing the changes of mangrove forest areas of Thailand. (Charuppat, T. Charuppat, J., 1997) Overview of shrimp farming and mangrove loss in Thailand. (Aksornkoae, S., Tokrisna. R., 2004)
Shrimp farming and mangrove loss in Thailand. ( Edward Elgar)
Health of fringing reefs of Asia through a decade of change: a case history from Phuket Island, Thailand. (Chansang, H., Phongsuwan, N., 1993.)
The Fishing Status of Thailand. (Chullasorn, S., Chotiyaputta, C., 1997)
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