[Coral-List] Qatari Reefs (2)
dr_iamacdonald at yahoo.co.uk
Wed Jun 18 08:31:09 EDT 2008
David / List,
Interestingly in the local press recently overfishing and spearfishing were highlighted as the major cause for decline in local coral reefs. Public awareness is sorely needed here...
Send me exact location if you can, i will investigate. I know the islands of Ras Rakan and Umm Tais near Ruwais quite well now.
Not sure if your observations were of recently bleached acropora or just relict dead in-situ? Can you clarify?
I have seen similar and acroporids formed extensive shallow water communities with Porites colonies interspersed and dominating slightly deeper water, Gene Shinn has pictures from the 60's. There is still few locations where you can swim through what once must have been a fantastic community, but now all dead and covered with fine sediment with very few bioeroders presents.
My interpretation of such dead relict acroporids (similar stands in 2004 off Fuwairit / Ras Laffan and Khor Al-Adaid (the inland sea)) stands were that the seawater temperature rise in 1996 so so great literally all macro marine life was killed (Dolphins/turtles/dugongs/fish were all washed up on the shoreline that summer). Corals died as did the black short spined urchin Echinometra mathaei that would have previously moved onto the dead coral starting chewing away and reduced the coral skeletons to stumps. Normally recruitment would happen and within around 10 years you wouldn't know the difference. See Riegls paper on "phoenix" coral communities.
The problem is Acroporid recruitment has been very slow, if at all nearshore Qatar. Add onto that the recurrent high temperatures then die-offs may have repeated. Since 2004 most of the dead acropora has been reduced to rubble as Echinometra has recovered and repopulated the nearshore areas. Rubble is not good for new recruitment. Parrot fish also play a significant role is this bioerosional cycle and there are a few MPAs and pseudo MPA here that may helped their plight. Benthic algae blooms on the available hard substrate / relict corals also may interfere with recruitment - but when do local acroporids reproduce - i think one one paper from Saudi on this and it points to one spawning event in May-June coincidentally when the algae blooms.
So why has Porites started to dominate? Is it a brooder and therefore more successful similar to Porites asteroides in the Caribbean? So much is unknown (unpublished i should say) about this region.
Diadema setosum exists in abundance here but typically only below about 5 to 8 m. Best resemblances of coral framework growth occurs at and above the depth range. Yes this "different" species has white spines occasionally - perhaps that helps the white striped spine debate.
The last undiscussed point is sea-level. There is some anecdotal evidence that when sealevel was higher in the gulf a few 1,000 years ago (at least around Qatar) coral communities (different species compositions - e.g., Favia spp.) were growing at sea level (indicated by their monk hair style growth morphology) which they currently struggle to do due to temeprature fluctuations. Can this be interpreted as the gulf being a less stressful environment for coral communities in the past - perhaps salinties didnt go as high as 42 ppt as they currently do?? Food for thought.
--- On Tue, 17/6/08, Medio, David <MedioD at Halcrow.com> wrote:
From: Medio, David <MedioD at Halcrow.com>
Subject: [Coral-List] Qatari Reefs (2)
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Date: Tuesday, 17 June, 2008, 2:40 PM
Greg, Gene, Iain,
I conducted a brief survey of the area at Ruwais (N-NW Qatar) in January
2004 and did come across plenty of acropora albeit all dead (bleaching)
and largely covered in algal overgrowth. I do not know how extensive
they were prior to bleaching events of 1996-1998-2000 but a former
colleague - Alison Shaw - now back in the UK (Zoological Society) may
know more and have relevant data.
This may have relevance to comments made by Iain below re the source of
coral from elsewhere in the Gulf and their overall health.
Yes, as Charles has indicated, we may be faced with a situation where
the ctaching up may be too late and slow. I still am of the view that
unless coastal developments is forced to include robust and science
based mitigation measures, alternatives in construction methods etc etc
we may be faced with a situation here where the only thing left is the
deployment of artificial reefs (see Nakheel's project aided by the UN
University). I am, as you all listers know, very sceptical of the
success of such initiatives in developing 'natural' reefs.
SCENR (and Bernhard Riegl) tell me that reefs in some of the islands to
the NNE of Qatar are pristine and in very good condition. Having said
that and flying over that precise area last Thursday the proposed
causeway between Bahrain and Qatar may, through the movement of large
quantities of dredged sediment in very, very shallow waters, have
implications for these.
Dr David Medio
Principal Environmental Scientist
Halcrow Group Ltd, Arndale Centre, Otley Rd, Headingley, Leeds, LS6 2UL,
tel: switchboard +44 (0)113 2208220, direct line: +44 (0)113 220 8253,
mobile: +44 (0)773 919 0968
fax: +44 (0)113 274 2924 email: mediod at halcrow.com
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Date: Tue, 17 Jun 2008 05:12:05 +0000 (GMT)
From: Iain Macdonald <dr_iamacdonald at yahoo.co.uk>
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Qatar Reefs
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov, Gene Shinn
<eshinn at marine.usf.edu>
Message-ID: <521198.27084.qm at web27203.mail.ukl.yahoo.com>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=utf-8
Apparently i am now old enough to forget to hit the reply to all
button.... for some this message is dejavu. Somebody may find the
I'll keep my post "short" and generalised as i can. I prefer to
coral communities rather than reefs around the nearshore of Qatar.
Offshore it is generally a similar situation with a few exceptions. Most
of the "coral shoals" locally known as "Fasht"?are a thin
coral growth over?a topograpical high point - e.g., old beach or salt
dome.?Beaches have the property here of creating beachrock within 30
years that could support hard substrate dependant fauna. The ultiamte
"sustainable" building material........
Most of the north and east coast the coral communities are slowly
recovering still only a few % live coral cover. Porites harrisoni tends
to "dominate" very low density populations of corals (about another
species). I havent seen any Acroporids nearshore since the die-off in
the mid 90's when they were very abundant nearshore. Offshore islands to
the north east have Acroporids including Halul - a major oil handling
facilitiy that acts as a pseudo MPA due to fishing and diving being
fully restricted. Those islands in the south-east that i last visited in
2005 didnt have Acropora. I beleive this reflects the south-east
islands?not being in the path of prevailing currents and the spawning
Acroporids from the UAE / Oman / Iran?thus lack of planulae. I would be
interested to here from Bahraini / Saudi workers if Acropora is on their
reefs as this probably represents the feedstock for nearshore reefs in
Unfortunately coastal development in most guylf countries is likely to
be having a toll on regional dynamics at least for the time being - long
term picture may or may not be more encouraging. If i remeber correctly
Charles Sheppard predicted mass mortailities every 10 years or so for
this region from global warming so unless the adaptive bleaching
hypothesis can quickly kick in the outlook may be bleak. On the other
hand i have seen large (nearly 1 m dimeter) porties already in the
nearshore. This summer the locals are telling me will be a hot one!
Down most of the west coast there are very scarce coral colonies growing
on hard bottom - something similar to?the situation off North Carolina
where i beleive we do not refer to this growth as reefs. Most maps with
"reefs" marked along this coast are referring to the fact your boat
be holed by going near this featured rather than it being a bioherm
formed by corals.?
The Supreme Council for the Environment and Natural Reserves are the
entity responsible for monitoring and have worked with NCRI - they could
also give you more information on places that need special permission to
dive and have done a lot of good work with SCENR/EAD/WWF/DEL.?The
SCENR?are about to release their environmental sensitivity map. The
SCENR have a team of people to look at the coral reefs. I have no
reports from them,however, they have said two papers shall soon be
published by regional experts (based in the west).
I have tried to get ReefCheck launched here for 3 years to get more
public participation amd awareness the later of which is nearly zero,
inshallah as they say.
IYOR is certainly not widely known here, however, i have tried recently
to get "Al-Jazzera" a bit more intetered and thus info to the Arabic
speaking world and as a seperate push hopefully will get a local press
release within the next few months mentioning IYOR and ICRS.
I shall be attending ICRS if you or anybody else working in the area
wishes to meet and chat about regional issues that we can work together
on and synergise.
I plan to visit some of your sites indicated on the spill map this
summer to gain a better understanding if they are coral reefs or as i
largely suspect hard bottom habitat.
Feel free to contact me directly.
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