Middle East unites to save the Red Sea's coral reef

Nothing like a perceived crisis to unite people, right? In this case, researchers and scientists from universities in the Middle East are joining forces to help protect and preserve the Red Sea’s unique, beautiful and essential coral reef.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Eritrea, Sudan, Yemen, Djibouti and Israel will partner at the Red Sea Transnational Research Centre to study, monitor and protect the Red Sea coral reef ecosystems, and  will be led and organized by Switzerland’s Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL.)

Interestingly, while it seems various coral reefs worldwide are suffering from the bleaching effects of global warming and pollution (such as in Hawaii and around South East Asia), the Red Sea coral reefs have been found to be resistant to these stressors.

“The relatively narrow sea is surrounded by countries and people who are directly dependent on the well-being of the coral reefs,” said Professor Maoz Fine, a marine biologist from the Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences at Bar-Ilan University, which led to the collaboration between the multiple countries.

Although corals in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba have so far proven resistant to the destructive elements that are affecting coral reefs worldwide, such as ocean acidification, pollution, over-fishing, and physical destruction, these scientists have recognised the necessity of protecting the Red Sea’s coral reefs as they form some of the world’s most critically important ecosystems, providing a home to a large variety of animals, including fish, seabirds, sponges, cnidarians, worms, crustaceans, and mollusks.

“The proximity of urban areas and tourism to the reef may inflict damage to it if we aren’t wise enough to coordinate our actions when using this asset,” Professor Fine said, according to a report from The Tower. “Our lab at Bar-Ilan University and the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences in Eilat is focused on understanding resilience and how local disturbances adversely affect this unique resilience to global change.”

The scientific community believes that expert cooperation can best overcome those threats through knowledge-sharing and regional coordination, despite the complex political situation, The Tower reported.


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