Nav: Home

Potential for Saudi Arabian coral reefs to shine

May 02, 2017

Marine surveys estimating fish population density and diversity are crucial to our understanding of how human activities impact coral reef ecosystems and to our ability to make informed management plans for sustainability. KAUST researchers recently conducted the first baseline surveys of reefs in the southern Red Sea by comparing reefs off the coast of Saudi Arabia with those of Sudan1.

"A major issue is that there is no established historical record for Red Sea ecosystems," said Dr. Darren Coker, who worked on the project with KAUST M.Sc. Alumnus Alexander Kattan and Professor Michael Berumen all of the University's Red Sea Research Center. "This means we can only hypothesize what the natural reef environment would have looked like before human interference through fishing began."

Berumen's team systematically compared 14 Saudi reefs with 16 offshore reefs in Sudan. The reefs are around 200-300 Km apart and share almost identical environmental conditions in terms of sea temperature, climate and coral species. However, Saudi Arabia has a long-established history of fishing, while Sudan does not.

"There is much more to the story than just the numbers of fish we see," said Berumen. "We collected and analyzed data between and within regions to look at fish abundance, biomass and community diversity across all the reefs surveyed."

"To minimize potential bias, I conducted all the survey dives myself," said Kattan, who trained intensively to ensure he could correctly identify fish species and accurately estimate their size underwater. "A friend helped me practice in a pool by diving with different sizes and shapes of simulated fish on popsicle sticks! Because size estimates were converted into biomass, it was vital that I was able to gauge sizes correctly."

The team found that the biomass of top predators in the Sudanese reefs was almost three times that of the Saudi reefs. The top predators were far rarer in Saudi Arabian waters, a phenomenon that the researchers attribute to fishing pressures. Furthermore, fish abundance was around 62 % higher in Sudan and biomass was 20 % higher. There was also slightly greater diversity on the Sudanese reefs.

"This is the strongest evidence yet of the impact of fishing on Saudi Arabia's reefs," said Berumen. "While Saudi Arabia appears to have lost many larger fish, these species, including top predators, have not completely disappeared, so there is an opportunity to turn the situation around. Saudi's reefs could be restored to the condition of the almost pristine Sudanese reefs through careful management and protection, and they could one day thrive as eco-tourism sites."
-end-


King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST)

Related Biomass Articles:

Ecology insights improve plant biomass degradation by microorganisms
Microbes are widely used to break down plant biomass into sugars, which can be used as sustainable building blocks for novel biocompounds.
Termite gut holds a secret to breaking down plant biomass
In the Microbial Sciences Building at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the incredibly efficient eating habits of a fungus-cultivating termite are surprising even to those well acquainted with the insect's natural gift for turning wood to dust.
Scientists harness solar power to produce clean hydrogen from biomass
A team of scientists at the University of Cambridge has developed a way of using solar power to generate a fuel that is both sustainable and relatively cheap to produce.
How much biomass grows in the savannah?
The ability of the savannahs to store the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide is ultimately determined by the amount of aboveground woody biomass.
Economics of forest biomass raise hurdles for rural development
The use of residual forest biomass for rural development faces significant economic hurdles that make it unlikely to be a source of jobs in the near future, according to an analysis by economists.
Biomass heating could get a 'green' boost with the help of fungi
In colder weather, people have long been warming up around campfires and woodstoves.
Unraveling the science behind biomass breakdown
Using the Titan supercomputer, an ORNL team created models of up to 330,000 atoms that led to the discovery of a THF-water cosolvent phase separation on the faces of crystalline cellulose fiber.
US holds potential to produce billion tons of biomass, support bioeconomy
The 2016 Billion-Ton Report, jointly released by the US Department of Energy and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, concludes that the United States has the potential to sustainably produce at least 1 billion dry tons of nonfood biomass resources annually by 2040.
Improving poor soil with burned up biomass
Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science in Japan have shown that torrefied biomass can improve the quality of poor soil found in arid regions.
Women cooking with biomass fuels more likely to have cataracts
Women in India who cook using fuels such as wood, crop residues and dried dung instead of cleaner fuels are more likely to have visually impairing nuclear cataracts, according to a new study by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Related Biomass Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Setbacks
Failure can feel lonely and final. But can we learn from failure, even reframe it, to feel more like a temporary setback? This hour, TED speakers on changing a crushing defeat into a stepping stone. Guests include entrepreneur Leticia Gasca, psychology professor Alison Ledgerwood, astronomer Phil Plait, former professional athlete Charly Haversat, and UPS training manager Jon Bowers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".