[Coral-List] The Hard Corals of Jordan field guide is finally released by #JREDS.

mohammad tawaha tawaha_81 at yahoo.com
Fri May 31 16:18:43 UTC 2019

The Hard Corals of Jordan field guide is finally released by #JREDS. This guide contains a wide-range of information about the #Gulf_of_Aqaba physical and biological characteristics, which supported the presence of an extraordinary reefs structure. In addition, information about the threats facing hard corals as well as the efforts made in #Jordan to conserve the marine ecosystems and species were provided. Noteworthy addition is the detailed description of 157 species of hard corals and providing high-resolution photos for each species. This remarkable achievement aimed to raise awareness and knowledge but also will aid the government to fulfil its international obligations set by the multilateral environmental conventions such as #CBD, and it will help to progress in achieving #SDGs14. This guide was published after a generous support provided by the “Sustainable Use of Ecosystem Services in Jordan (#EKF_ESS)” project, which is commissioned by the #German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (#BMZ) in partnership between The #Ministry_of_Environment
ByMohammad Salem Al-Tawaha Francesca Benzoni Ehab Eid and Abdulla Abu Awali 

The Gulf of Aqaba is Jordan’s only marine outlet and the country coastline extends for a total of 27km. It has unique physical characteristics including its transparent waters and temperatures ranging between ~21 °C in winter and 27 °C in summer. These provide a great opportunity for divers, snorkelers, and beach-goers to enjoy its marine diversity. The Gulf is also characterized by an extraordinary marine diversity, where several species of corals, reef-building coral, and soft coral species live. In addition, more than 510 species of fish, three globally endangered species of marine turtle, and three species of seagrass are recorded. Despite the importance of corals and reef-building corals at Aqaba, they are under serious threats of both natural and anthropogenic origins. However, several conservation measures have been established in Jordan at legal, institutional,, and global levels to protect these fragile ecosystems. This guide represents a unique contribution to our knowledge about hard corals in the Gulf of Aqaba. A photographic survey was performed at 25 sites along the Jordanian coastline of the Gulf of Aqaba. The sites visited were surveyed from 0 to 30m, where 30 scuba dives each lasting approximately 60 minutes were conducted. The visited sites covered almost the entire coastline area, including all diving sites as illustrated in the description below.The Red Sea harbors the highest level of reef scleractinian coral endemism in the Indian Ocean region. The latest available list of coral species for the Red Sea and the rest of the Arabian Region was published by DiBattista et al. (2016) in a review of the contemporary patterns of endemism for shallow water reef fauna in the region. According to this reference, 6.5% of the over 350 species recorded are restricted to the Red Sea, whereas levels of endemism are less than 3% for all other areas of the Indian Ocean. A total of 157 hard coral species were positively identified based on the analysis of the photographic data set, the collected specimens, and the existing taxonomic literature: 153 scleractinian corals (Anthozoa, Scleractinia), one organ pipe coral (Anthozoa, Alcyonacea), and 3 fire corals (Hydrozoa, Milleporidae). Scleractinian coral species found in this study belong to 15 families and 59 genera. Of the scleractinian corals, 147 are zooxanthellate (hosting the photosynthetic dinoflagellates of the family Symbiodinaceae) and six azooxanthellate. Fifteen scleractinian corals found and photographed during the field survey are currently known to occur exclusively in the Red Sea, and are hence considered Red Sea endemics. In particular, 65% of the 23 known Red Sea endemic coral species were found in Jordan. Based on the collected data, 9.8% of the scleractinian corals recorded between 0 and 30m in Jordan in the present study are Red Sea endemics. It is noteworthy that 5 of the Red Sea endemics, namely Pachyseris inattesa Benzoni & Terraneo 2014, Cyphastrea kausti Bouwmeester & Benzoni 2015, Cyphastrea magna Benzoni & Arrigoni 2017, Echinophyllia bulbosa Arrigoni, Benzoni & Berumen 2016, and Sclerophyllia margariticola Klunzinger 1879 have been only recently described or resurrected thanks to the integrated systematic approaches including morphological and genetic data coming from a reference collection assembled in Saudi Arabia.Based on the present study barely 44% of the coral species recorded in the whole Red Sea are found in Jordan but the percentage of endemics seems to be higher. These figures need to be discussed in the context of data quality and sampling effort. On the one hand, the list by DiBattista et al. (2016) includes shallow and deep-water corals and aggregates records from reference collection-based papers (e.g. Scheer and Pillai 1983, Sheppard and Sheppard 1991) and checklists (DeVantier et al. 2010, Turak et al. 2007). Geographic records based on existing collections have the advantage of being re-assessabled in further studies as new methods and informative characters become available.Checklists based on in situ identifications, however, regretfully do not (Rocha et al. 2014). Therefore, some of the species records included in the list are not verifiable. On the other hand, the present study is the first to address the coral diversity in Jordan and includes only records from shallow water and is a smaller sampling effort than the one represented by the above-mentioned references. Hence, while the figures provided here show that the Jordan Gulf of Aqaba shallow reef corals include 65% of the known Red Sea endemics, a larger sampling effort over a wider bathymetric range and the study of a reference collection are needed to provide a more accurate estimate of hard coral diversity in the Gulf of Aqaba.Finally, during the present study a colony of the azooxanthellate species Rhizopsammia compacta Sheppard & Sheppard 1991 originally described from Oman was found and imaged for the first time in the Red Sea. Furthermore, the known distribution ranges of Goniopora tantillus (Claereboudt & Al Amri 2004) and Pleuractis seychellensis Hoeksema 1993 are extended into the Gulf of Aqaba.

Mohammad S. Al-Tawaha
Environmental Researcher

The Royal Marine Conservation Society of Jordan

Tel Office: +962 (0)3 2022995
Mobile: +962 (0)777781822/ +962 (0)799541769

P.S Before printing,
think about the Environment
and your responsibilities

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