The Ministry of Environment and the Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi have jointly installed 16 Permanent coral monitoring stations in their marine waters.
Of the total 16 stations, four are in Qatar. Qatar has launched its permanent monitoring stations in Halul (2 stations), Al Ghabi and Halt Dalma, a report on the findings of a three year project “Coral Reef Investigations in Abu Dhabi and Eastern Qatar” said.
The first-ever mapping of the coral reef and associated habitats throughout the 86,400 km2 in Qatari-UAE marine waters revealed that the Arabian Gulf reefs suffered the strongest disturbances during the years 1996, 1998 and 2002.
In summer 1996, the temperature anomaly (locally 2.5 degrees above seasonal average) led to the mortality of Acroporaspecific species. This coral species is relatively fast growing and aggressive. In 1998, the high level of open sea water temperature (also locally 2.5 degrees above seasonal average for four months) led to further mortality among all other species, killing corals in some areas, the report released by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said.
The study found that the corals grow in eastern Qatar and Abu Dhabi are in one of the most stressful environment for corals anywhere in the world. For corals in these waters, temperature variation between winter and summer is extreme, varying up to over 20 degrees Celsius. Thus, on the decadal scale, both upper and lower lethal temperatures are attained relatively frequent. Several such anomalies have been recorded historically from the area. “It is believed that the Arabian Gulf coral communities represent a dynamic system that shrinks and expands in response to mortality events triggered by temperature anomalies. During years of temperature extremes, either all corals or just certain species regularly experience significant mortality, or even mass mortality,” the report said
However, in 2002-2005 there were no significant temperature anomalies. The assessment clearly demonstrated that Qatar and Abu Dhabi coral reefs are not dead and still in need of protection. Their active reproduction indicates they remain in good health and are beginning to regenerate. The study also revealed that regional development is taking the toll on the coral reef deposits
Though overall coral biodiversity remains depressed in the region, it is clear that, given protection, reefs will recover from the damage suffered during the past stress and temperature anomalies.