Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Northern Red Sea Could Be Unique Global Warming Refuge for Coral

Animals
Coral growth near Aqaba, Jordan. kaetidh / Flickr

Lying at the northern tip of the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aqaba might be able sustain its coral population for another 100 to 150 years, despite global warming, new research predicts.

Scientists from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), the University of Essex and Al-Azhar University believe that a stretch of nearly 1,120 miles could become one of the few—and one of the largest—refuges for coral.


By 2040, 25 out 29 World Heritage reef areas will experience twice-per-decade bleaching, an occurrence that will "rapidly kill most corals present and prevent successful reproduction necessary for recovery of corals," the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization concluded. In the past three years alone, three-fourths of the world's reefs have experienced severe bleaching.

Since the Gulf of Aqaba lies at the northern edge of the Red Sea, the surface water temperature is coolest. Uniquely, coral in the entire Red Sea is heat resistant, but populations in the south are already nearing their tipping point. "Bleaching usually occurs at 1°C over the summer mean average temperature," Christian Voolstra, one of the study's authors, told Nature Asia. In the northern waters of the Gulf of Aqaba, coral enjoys a temperature margin of 5°C.

To reach these conclusions, scientists compared patterns of coral heat sensitivity across the Red Sea to a dataset of coral bleaching events since 1982. This allowed them to identify areas least susceptible to thermal stress. The team then looked at thermal histories of Hurghada, Egypt and Thuwal, Saudi Arabia—each bordering the Red Sea—and their coral-bleaching patterns, but also the effect of 2015-2016 El Niño events on their coral areas. From this they were able to conclude that the Red Sea's northern coral was less susceptible to rises in water temperature.

"This anomaly, which is only found in the Red Sea, gives us a window of opportunity to take action," Voolstra said.

But tucked between Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Saudi Arabia, the coral will also have to contend with local, human-made threats, such as pollution and coastal development.

The Gulf of Aqaba is home to two bustling port cities, the Israeli city of Eilat and the Jordanian city of Aqaba, both sitting next to coral reefs. In 2016, 200 tons of crude oil spilled into the gulf after an oil pipeline burst in the port of Aqaba.

To the south of Aqaba and Eilat, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are planning a massive bridge to link the two countries. Such a project could disturb the fragile ecosystem.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Food Tank

By Danielle Nierenberg and Alonso Diaz

With record high unemployment, a reeling global economy, and concerns of food shortages, the world as we know it is changing. But even as these shifts expose inequities in the health and food systems, many experts hope that the current moment offers an opportunity to build a new and more sustainable food system.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Brian J. Love and Julie Rieland

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the U.S. recycling industry. Waste sources, quantities and destinations are all in flux, and shutdowns have devastated an industry that was already struggling.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

By Kris Gunnars, BSc

Unhealthy foods play a primary role in many people gaining weight and developing chronic health conditions, more now than ever before.

Read More Show Less
A man pushes his mother in a wheelchair down Ocean Drive in South Beach, Miami on May 19, 2020, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. reported more than 55,000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, in a sign that the outbreak is not letting up as the Fourth of July weekend kicks off.

Read More Show Less
To better understand how people influence the overall health of dolphins, Oklahoma State University's Unmanned Systems Research Institute is developing a drone to collect samples from the spray that comes from their blowholes. Ken Y. / CC by 2.0

By Jason Bruck

Human actions have taken a steep toll on whales and dolphins. Some studies estimate that small whale abundance, which includes dolphins, has fallen 87% since 1980 and thousands of whales die from rope entanglement annually. But humans also cause less obvious harm. Researchers have found changes in the stress levels, reproductive health and respiratory health of these animals, but this valuable data is extremely hard to collect.

Read More Show Less

Sunscreen pollution is accelerating the demise of coral reefs globally by causing permanent DNA damage to coral. gonzalo martinez / iStock / Getty Images Plus

On July 29, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a controversial bill prohibiting local governments from banning certain types of sunscreens.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Oat milk is popping up at coffee shops and grocery stores alike, quickly becoming one of the trendiest plant-based milks. jacqueline / CC by 2.0

By Kelli McGrane

Oat milk is popping up at coffee shops and grocery stores alike, quickly becoming one of the trendiest plant-based milks.

Read More Show Less