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The Status and Management of Coral Reefs in The United Arab Emirates Ashraf Al Cibahy* and Thabit Al Abdesalaam *E-mail: PowerPoint Presentation
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The Status and Management of Coral Reefs in The United Arab Emirates Ashraf Al Cibahy* and Thabit Al Abdesalaam *E-mail: aalcibahy@ead.ae www.ead.ae Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) UAE. UAE Country Profile. Surface area: 83,600 km 2 (Abu Dhabi = 87% of total).

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slide1

The Status and Management of Coral Reefs in The United Arab Emirates

Ashraf Al Cibahy* and

Thabit Al Abdesalaam

*E-mail: aalcibahy@ead.ae

www.ead.ae

Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD)

UAE

uae country profile
UAE Country Profile

Surface area: 83,600 km2 (Abu Dhabi = 87% of total).

Coastline: 650 km (Arabian Gulf) 90 km (Gulf of Oman).

Population: 4.1 million (2005 census

Economy: GDP (2002) = US $ 65.9 billion (Oil and natural gas = 33.9%).

Coastal Habitats: Salt pans, sand flats, coral reefs, sea grass beds, mangroves, tidal inlets.

uae oceanographic characteristics
UAE Oceanographic characteristics

Chlorophyll-a concentration in UAE waters during February 2002 (SeaWiFS oceanographic satellite).

Monthly seawater temperatures for the waters of the UAE (2002).

Arabian Gulf: Salinity 40 - 44 ppt, temp 20.9 – 34.2 oC

Gulf of Oman: Salinity 35 – 37 ppt, temp 23.1 – 25.0 oC

natural constraints to coral reef development uae arabian gulf waters
Natural constraints to coral reef development (UAE-Arabian Gulf Waters)
  • Extreme temperature range & anomalies (10-15 yrs).
  • Extreme salinity range.
  • Extensive areas of unconsolidated carbonate sediments.
  • Scouring action by mobile sediments on limestone substrates.
  • High levels of suspended sediment.
coral reef structure and development in uae
Coral reef structure and developmentin UAE
  • Arabian Gulf
  • Poorly developed patch reefs dominated by Acropora and Porites (10% cover).
  • Fringing reefs around off-shore islands dominated by mono-specific stands.
  • Cycles of mortality, breakdown and re-growth inhibit framework accumulation.
  • Gulf of Oman
  • More favorable conditions for coral growth and reef development.
  • Relatively clear water and less extreme temperature and salinity ranges.
  • Greater species diversity, live coral cover and variety of growth forms.
species diversity hermatypic corals in the uae
Species Diversity (Hermatypic Corals) in the UAE

Family

Family

Acroporidae (8)

Dendrophyllidae(2)

Acropora valida

Turbinaria pelata

Poritidae (6)

Pocilloporidae(1)

Porites lobata

Stylophora pistillata

Siderastreidae (4)

Mussidae (1)

Pseudosiderastrea tayami

Acanthastraea echinata

(Photos: Charlie Veron)

Faviidae (12)

Total = 36 species

(Arabian Gulf waters)

Favites pentagona

value and uses of coral reefs in the uae
Value and uses of coral reefs in the UAE
  • Support fisheries.
  • Provide recreational services eg. diving and snorkeling.
  • Tourism (generation of foreign exchange).
  • Storm surge and coastal erosion protection (off-shore islands).
  • Critical habitats essential for the maintenance of biodiversity.
  • Scientific value (especially given existence in an extreme environment).
monitoring and assessment 1 jebel ali marine sanctuary
Monitoring and Assessment(1)Jebel Ali Marine Sanctuary
  • A coral reef monitoring program has been maintained in the Jebel Ali Marine Sanctuary since 1995 by the Dubai municipality.
  • Techniques used include side-scan sonar, video mapping, remote sensing and acoustic seabed mapping. Survey area = 37.7 km 2.
  • Surveys have enabled the assessment of 2 coral bleaching episodes during 1996 and 1998.
  • Concise maps have been produced for management planning and monitoring purposes.
monitoring and assessment 2 marawah marine protected area
Monitoring and Assessment(2) Marawah Marine Protected Area
  • A synoptic survey of the Marawah MPA (5,561 km2) revealed the distribution and species composition of corals over a large area off the coast of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
  • However, the survey was only implemented in order to establish areas of high conservation value as part of the initial effort to designate the MPA.
monitoring and assessment 3 marine biotope monitoring off abu dhabi
Monitoring and Assessment(3) Marine biotope monitoring off Abu Dhabi
  • Natural History Museum of the UK carried out a monitoring program of marine biotopes in the waters off Abu Dhabi.
  • Surveys covered 2 catastrophic bleaching events during 1996 and 1998 which were associated with prolonged positive seawater temperature anomalies.
  • Surveys are no longer on-going.
monitoring and assessment
Monitoring and Assessment

(4) Marine macro-fauna surveys

  • MERC of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) conducts aerial surveys for dugongs, turtles, dolphins and marine macro fauna in the waters of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
  • Whilst the survey is not specifically designed to monitor coral reefs it does record habitat type along transects, the categories used include seagrass, corals and sandy bottom.
  • Additional data collected of relevance to reef monitoring includes the pressure on habitats (number of vessels, fishing nets observed, oil pollution and turbidity).
slide14

Monitoring and Assessment

(5) Miscellaneous coral reef associated research & monitoring programs

The Marine Environmental Research Center of EAD implements the following monitoring and assessment activities:

Fish population dynamics: Fisheries resource assessment, catch and effort monitoring and fisheries management (includes reef associated species).

Fishing gear investigations: Development of escape panels to prevent 'ghost fishing' and reduce the retention of juvenile fish.

Phytoplankton blooms: Phytoplankton monitoring in the coastal waters of Abu Dhabi.

Sea turtles: Satellite tagging, nesting surveys, rearing and release.

Oceanography: Coastal water circulation/drifter buoy study.

Marine Protected Areas: MPAs management, planning, surveillance and enforcement and justification of other opportunities in marine and coastal areas of Abu Dhabi Emirate.

Coral reef project

slide15

Monitoring and Assessment

(6) CORAL REEF PROJECT

Title: Coral Reef Investigation in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and the Eastern Cost of Qatar

Sponsor: Dolphin Energy

Client / Coordinator: Environment Agency –Abu Dhabi (EAD) and SCENR-Qatar

Management: EWS-WWF

Technical Investigator: NCRI-Florida-USA

project goal

CORAL REEF PROJECT

Project Goal

To develop and advance the conservation, management and sustainable use of coral reefs and associated habitats in the waters off the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and Qatar, through the provision of accurate biological, ecological and socio-economic information.

project objectives

Project Objectives

Provide specific – tailor made monitoring and assessment approaches to the unique env. of AD

Map and assess the status of coral reef habitats in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and Qatar

Investigate biodiversity of corals, and associated habitats / Spp.

Establish baseline conditions for long term monitoring

Ensure compatibility with int. initiatives of coral monitoring

Evaluate alternative approaches to rehabilitation

Develop capacity building of UAE/Qatari research personnel for long term monitoring

Propose a conservation and management strategy for implementation by state authorities.

project outputs

Project Outputs

Study of the distribution, status and threats to coral reefs within Abu Dhabi/Qatar

Atlas and coral reef identification guide

Coral reef conservation and management plan

Solid scientific base for further development by EAD/SCENR

Opportunities for media awareness campaigns

Capacity building

slide19

CORAL REEF PROJECT: Training

  • Field:
  • Ground truthing
  • Coral reef identification
  • Classroom:
  • Remote sensing
  • Coral reef evolution and life forms
  • Field:
  • Sediment sampling
  • % Cover
slide20

CORAL REEF PROJECT

Results of Resource Assessment for Coral Reefs at the Offshore Islands of Abu Dhabi

slide21

Arzanah Island

  • 51 sites evaluated, of which 11 showed coral growth.
  • The densest coral growth was found on the western side of the islands. The coral community was in the very early phases of regeneration.
  • Coral cover was between 1 and 5%.
  • Coral species encountered were:
  • Platygyra daedalea, Platygyra lamellina
  • Favia pallida, Porites harrisoni
  • Porites lutea, Cyphastrea microphthalma
  • ? Psammocora. sp., Acropora clathrata (40 cm diameter)
  • Corals are healthy and no diseases were observed. The relatively uniform size distribution of corals suggests that all originated from sexually produced gametes of an upstream source
slide22

Das Island

  • A total of 27 sites were evaluated, of which 5 showed coral growth.
  • The coral community was in the very early phases of regeneration.
  • Coral cover was around 1%.
  • Coral species encountered were:

Platygyra lamellina , Favia pallida

Porites harrisoni

  • The few observed corals appeared to be of good health and no diseases were observed.
  • The relatively uniform size distribution of corals suggests that all originated from sexually produced gametes of an upstream source.
slide23

Diyenat Island

  • 31 sites were evaluated, of which 17 showed coral growth.
  • The coral community was in early phases of regeneration.
  • Coral cover was around 1%.
  • Coral species encountered were:

Platygyra lamellina, Favia pallida

Porites harrisoni, Porites lutea

  • The observed corals are healthy and no diseases were observed.
  • The relatively uniform size distribution of corals suggests that all originated from sexually produced gametes of an upstream source
slide24

Qrnen Island

  • 31 sites were evaluated, of which 17 showed coral growth.
  • The coral community was in the very early phases of regeneration.
  • Coral cover was between 1 and 5%.
  • Coral species encountered were:

Platygyra lamellina, Favia pallida

Cyphastrea microphthalma, Turbinaria reniformis, Pseudosiderastrea tayamai, Plesiastrea versipora, Porites harrisoni, Porites lutea

  • The observed corals are healthy - no diseases were observed.
  • The relatively uniform size distribution of corals suggests that all originated from sexually produced gametes of an upstream source
slide25

Zarkawh Island

  • 2 sites were evaluated, of which 11 showed coral growth.
  • The densest coral growth was found on the north-western side of the islands.
  • The coral community was in the very early phases of regeneration.
  • Coral cover was between 1 and a maximum of 5%.
  • Coral species encountered were:

Platygyra daedalea, Platygyra lamellina

Favia pallida, Porites harrisoni

Porites lutea, Cyphastrea microphthalma

Acropora clathrata (small recruit)

  • Corals were all healthy - no diseases were observed.
  • The relatively uniform size distribution of corals suggests that all originated from sexually produced gametes of an upstream source
slide26

Al Hil Island

  • 6 sites were evaluated, all of which were situated within a dense coral biostrome and of which 3 showed coral growth.
  • The coral community showed all the signs of serious mortality suffered during the previous thermal stress events
  • Coral cover was between 1 and 5% and this was the sight with the strongest Acropora recruitment of all sites.
  • Coral species encountered were:

Platygyra daedalea, Platygyra lamellina

Favia pallida, Porites harrisoni

Porites lutea, Cyphastrea microphthalma

Acropora clathrata, Acropora arabensis

  • Corals were all of good health and no diseases were observed
slide28

Significance of findings

  • Results show clear signs of the coral system’s resilience in the face of what was likely the strongest disturbance of the century
  • Despite three marked thermal anomalies and their associated coral mass mortality, the reefs are not dead and show very active signs of regeneration.
  • So far, no extinctions have yet been identified, however, overall coral biodiversity still remains depressed and coral coverage of available substratum remains at record low levels.
  • The observed corals bear clear evidence of a fertile upstream seeding population and active spread of sexual propagules throughout the region.
  • There is no evidence for asexual increase in coral populations yet, largely because the colonies are still too small
  • The active recruitment and reproduction indicates that remaining corals are good health. Thus, there is hope for a full recovery of the coral systems.
conservation and management initiatives for coral reef conservation in uae
Conservation and Management Initiatives for Coral Reef Conservation in UAE

Federal Laws eg. no. 23, 1999 on the Exploitation, Protection and Development of Living Aquatic Resources in the UAE.

Federal Law no. 24 for the Protection and Development of the Environment.

Decrees eg. Decree no. 1 of June 1995 demarcating coral reef areas on the East Coast for protection.

International Conventions: CITES, CBD etc.

Management & Action Plans

Regional: Regional Action Plan for the Conservation of Coral Reefs in the Arabian Seas Region (ROPME Sea Area)

Kuwait Action Plan

National: eg. Environmental Strategy and Action Plans for the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. (EAD).

Marawah Marine Protected Area Management Plan.

threats management issues
Threats & Management Issues

Bleaching: Coral mortality (up to 98%) following bleaching events associated with increases in the frequency and prolongation of positive seawater temperature anomalies. Note: diversity in the Jebel Ali Wildlife Sanctuary reduced from 34 to 27 species following the 1996 bleaching event.

Crown of Thorns: periodically abundant on East Coast reefs where they have caused extensive damage.

Disease: Yellow-band, Black-band and white band diseases present and prevalence maybe increased by anthropogenic stressors.

threats management issues3
Threats & Management Issues

Effects of fishing eg. by-catch

conclusions
Conclusions
  • The coral reefs of the UAE have cultural, economic and scientific value.
  • Threats are primarily derived from positive seawater temperature anomalies, hyper-saline and thermal cooling water discharges, dredging and landfill, urban refuse and the effects of fishing.
  • 3. Coral reef monitoring activities in the UAE started in 1995. Monitoring has relied on international expertise highlighting the need for national capacity building.
  • There are a variety of conservation and management initiatives being implemented by NGO’s as well as local/federal government institutions and international organizations. (Legislation, strategic action plans, MPAs, education and awareness campaigns etc.)
slide38

Acknowledgement:

Bernhard Riegl and Samuel Purkis (NCRI, Florida)

Thabit Zahran, Suad Al Harthi, Mohamed Jassim, Hamad Al Mazroei, (EAD, UAE)

Nasser AL Shaiba (EHS,Dubai Ports)

EWS-WWF

Dolphin Energy