Abu Dhabi launches region’s largest coral rehabilitation project

Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi has launched the largest coral reef rehabilitation project in the region.

The project aims to cultivate one million coral reef colonies in Abu Dhabi waters with the aim of increasing the emirate’s total coral reef area, protecting the marine environment and preventing coastal erosion. It was launched by the Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi, the emirate’s environmental sector regulator, under the guidance of Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the ruler’s representative in the Al Dhafra region and chairman of EAD.

The launch coincides with World Oceans Day, which is celebrated annually on June 8.

Importance of coral reefs

Coral reefs are known to provide important natural habitat for fish and other marine life, and to protect against coastal erosion. Global warming and the development of marine areas have, however, led to the deterioration and bleaching of many reefs around the world.

Sheikh Hamdan therefore stressed the importance of the Abu Dhabi project to preserve Abu Dhabi’s biological diversity, support fisheries and enable recreational activities and tourism.

Resilient reefs

“Despite the harsh environmental conditions for coral reefs here in the Persian Gulf, they are able to adapt and provide habitats for a variety of marine species in the region. They are very resilient, which has allowed them to adapt to the world’s highest temperatures in an unusual way, which sets them apart from other types of coral reefs,” said Sheikh Hamdan. According to EAD experts, Abu Dhabi contains 34 different types of hard corals .

Location of reefs

Mohamed Ahmed Al Bowardi, Minister of State for Defense Affairs and Deputy Chairman of the EAD Board, said hard corals are distributed in several places including Ras Ghanada, Butinah, Saadiyat and Alnouf.

“Through this program, coral nurseries will be developed to reduce the negative impact of natural pressures that coral reefs are under due to climate change and high sea floor temperatures. As a result, the project will also increase the total area of ​​coral and rehabilitate affected areas to preserve the great heritage, economic and scientific value of coral reefs,” Al Bowardi explained.

Threat to reefs

Rising water temperatures are the biggest challenge facing coral reefs today, as they exacerbate heat stress and lead to coral bleaching. Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, chief executive of EAD, said Abu Dhabi lost more than 73% of its reefs due to massive coral bleaching in 2017.

“Such loss of coral reefs has been observed around the world, including the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, which has lost 50% of its living coral area. Through surveys conducted by the EAD, a 10% to 18% improvement in coral reef conditions has been monitored over the past year, indicating the ability of coral reefs to recover if they are not not exposed to the risks of climate change,” said Al Mubarak.

EAD Shares

Since 2005, EAD has implemented a program to monitor and monitor the state of coral reefs through seasonal surveys, using data from 10 separate stations located in the emirate of Abu Dhabi. It has also developed an emirate coral reef conservation and management plan in coordination with all partners at the emirate level to understand and study coral reef ecosystems, reduce negative impacts and restore degraded reefs. In addition, EAD cooperates with academic institutions on coral reef research; for example, with New York University Abu Dhabi on coral reef monitoring, Nawah Company and Zayed University on laboratory propagation and replanting of coral reefs, said Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Secretary General of the EAD.

“Through the implementation of the program, coral nurseries will be developed. This will be achieved by harvesting small fragments of the various species of coral reefs in the waters of the emirate, relocating them to the nursery and promoting their growth until they can be transferred back to the degraded reefs for their establishment,” Al Dhaheri explained.

Increase reef area

“The project aims to reduce the negative impact of climate change on coral reefs, as well as increase the total area of ​​coral reefs in the waters of the emirate, help rehabilitate areas affected by climate change and human activities, and to conduct research and studies to discover the best and most adaptable coral species,” she added.

Step-by-step program

In the first phase, which will last three years, nursery sites will be selected to ensure a protected environment for growth. This will involve assessing coral sources and quality standards, based on depth and temperature. A number of underwater nurseries will be set up to nurture and grow coral fragments. The total production capacity is estimated at more than one million coral colonies.

The second phase of the program involves harvesting coral nursery stocks and transporting them to rehabilitation sites. Affected sites will also be cultivated to restore the integrated coral system. The third phase will include completing the harvesting of nursery stock and restoring degraded areas with new coral growth.

EAD is currently developing a coral reef conservation and management plan and submitting proposals for the expansion and addition of some marine nature reserves with coral reefs.

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