Rehabilitation of natural and artificial coral reefs in the Gulf of Aqaba, Isreal

Coral reefs are deteriorating worldwide despite increasing attempts for their conservation and rehabilitation. Under threat from overfishing, tourism and global warming, the coral reefs in the northern Gulf of Aqaba, Red sea, are no exception.

Current efforts focus on reducing pressure on the reef in order to reduce the rate of deterioration and enable natural recovery, but once a reef is destroyed or severely degraded, recovery may take hundreds of years, or never happen at all. One of the most visible signs of a decline in condition of reefs is the widely documented shift from a healthy state to a weed dominated state where algae-consuming fish are absent. However, the critical question has remained: How can this coral-algal phase shift be reversed?

Dr. Nadav Shashar, an Israeli biologist at The Inter University Institute for Marine Sciences, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has for the past 6 years collaborated with other Israeli and Jordanian researchers to study and develop artificial reefs as a nature conservation tool.

Early studies showed it may take up to 80 years for artificial reefs to reach maximal coral coverage, and yet unusually high fish densities can develop quickly on isolated artificial reefs. The research has raised hopes that this new technology may prove a useful tool in increasing local biodiversity, which could in turn help restore balance in damaged coral ecosystems and aid natural recovery.

With support from an Associate Award, Nadav’s project is aimed at turning artificial reefs from a scientific idea into a practical management tool for reef restoration. Having developed protocols for artificial reef creation, the team is now taking an active role in reef recovery by increasing the area covered by corals. By transplanting nursery-grown corals to 6 barren artificial reef sites in Jordan and Israel, they will examine how to increase biodiversity locally, accelerating coral and fish recruitment on natural reefs for the benefit of reef recovery.

It is hoped that over time the new reefs may also assist by helping to divert human pressures away from natural areas already subject to heavy tourism. A very inclusive project, Nadav is particularly eager to involve different sections of the local community in the work, especially children through their schools, to learn and protect their coral reefs. A key project output will also be to establish guidelines for deployment and maintenance of artificial reefs in the Gulf of Aqaba.

NEWS REPORT ON CORAL REEF APPEARS ON AL JAZEERA

August 28th 2007

The work of Dr. Nadav Shashar in Israel and Jordan is attracting international attention and was reported on Al Jazeera, a news and current affairs TV channel reaching the Arab world.

To see the news report, click here.

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