The Abu Dhabi Environment Agency is developing a program that contributes to reducing the negative impact of the natural pressures on coral reefs resulting from climate change and rising seabed temperatures. This is to rehabilitate it and increase its area on the coasts of the Emirates.
The UAE lost up to 70 percent of its coral reefs, especially around Abu Dhabi, in 2017 when water temperatures reached 37 degrees Celsius, according to the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi.
Coral reefs host beneficial algae within their tissues, but as temperatures rise, the chemical balance breaks down, leading to a phenomenon known as ‘bleaching’.
Although the coral reefs in the waters of the Arabian Gulf, which are among the hottest seas in the world, are characterized by high flexibility that enabled them to adapt to the highest temperatures, this did not protect them from the global warming phenomenon that made them lose their color.
Therefore, the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) has been working on rehabilitating and cultivating coral reefs since 2021, especially after the UAE coasts faced their second “bleaching” event in just five years.
Marine scientist Hamad Al-Jilani collects damaged coral reefs and transfers them to special nurseries that provide them with ideal conditions for recovery: clear water with strong currents and an adequate amount of sunlight. Al-Gilani also periodically checks the corals growing in these brooders, removes any harmful seaweed, and lets the fish clean them, until they are healthy enough to be moved to their main home.
“Now some of them are palm-sized, and we will return them to the coral reefs that have been subjected to bleaching to try to revive them,” says Al-Jilani.
In the end, the project will attract fish and organisms that have been forced to move to other environments due to the lack of coral reefs that depend on them for protection and food.
For his part, the director of the diving program, Amr Anwar, is working on arranging courses to teach divers how to collect and replant coral reefs that were damaged after the divers’ fins or the boat’s anchor collided with them.
But global warming is not the only threat to coral reefs around the Gulf, in addition to the rise in oil tanker traffic, fossil fuel-related activities, marine installations, and exploitation of marine resources, all of which are factors that put marine life under severe pressure and lead to its degradation.
The construction of the artificial island, “Palm Jebel Ali”, has sparked outrage among conservationists, after it was said to have destroyed some 8 square kilometers of coral reefs.
The development company, URB, announced its desire to plant 1 billion artificial corals on an area of 200 square kilometers and 100 million mangrove trees, on an 80-kilometer strip of beaches in Dubai by 2040.
The project is still in the research and development stage, and they hope to create a technology to 3D print materials that can host algae, such as corals.