Marine Science Faculty Publications

Observations of a Red Sea Fringing Coral Reef under Extreme Environmental Conditions

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



ICRS11, reef status and trends, Red Sea, fringing reef, Gulf of Suez, marginal reefs, oil spill, bleaching, salinity extremes


A four-year study collected the first comprehensive time-series data from a small Red Sea fringing reef located at the extreme northernmost latitude of tropical coral reefs. Corals here are exposed to 2-6o C daily water temperature changes with seasonal variations exceeding 14-16o C, and salinities between 43 and 45 ppt. Annual reef surveys included random photo quadrats, fixed video transects, and environmental measurements. In just four years, this pristine reef ecosystem was subjected to nearby shipping-port construction, rapid coastal urbanization, a bleaching event, and an oil spill. Results indicate that of the approximately 35 coral taxa known to survive here, just six compose 94% of those on this reef. Between 2004 and 2007, statistically significant changes were found in reef health indicators including a 50% increase in dead coral, 58% increase in sea urchins, and decreases in biodiversity and fish abundance. Despite all this, corals here appear to be well adapted to extreme environmental conditions. This ongoing research establishes a reference point for coral reef studies in this region and will be key to future local conservation efforts.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Proceedings of the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium, v. 2, p. 579-583