Coral reefs in the Gulf of Aqaba may survive global warming


Right behind me here in the Gulf of Aqaba, we have found corals that are extremely resistant to global warming and this offers a glimmer of hope in an otherwise very serious situation. These corals out here have evolved to be able to cope with the water temperatures that are predicted for the Gulf at the end of the century. We think we understand how this happened, but there is much more scientific work left to be done to understand the precise biological mechanisms involved. We went out into the Gulf of Aqaba took corals from the field and we put them here in the aquariums as you can see behind me. This experimental setup allows us to manipulate the specific ocean chemistry and the adjust water temperatures in a very defined manner. That means we increased the temperature to resemble a future ocean. At the same time we also lowered the pH of the sea water. We exposed them for six weeks to these conditions which is considered really extreme. Most corals around the world would probably bleach and have a high degree of mortality.

Surprisingly these corals did very well. At the end of these six weeks we measured multiple variables and most of the variables that we measured actually improved. Corals in the Gulf of Aqaba are pre acclimated for thermal tolerance due to special geographical setting of the Gulf of Aqaba and due to the recent history of the Red Sea. Local disturbances such as oil pollution, nutrients from sea farms and fish farms, herbicides from gardening may reduce the exceptionally high thermal tolerance of the corals of the Gulf of Aqaba Reefs. This reef should receive international recognition as a natural site of great importance because it might very well be one of the last reefs standing or alive at the end of the century. I would like to encourage the countries around the Gulf of Aqaba which are Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel to get together and create a strong environmental protection program for these reefs because even if these corals out here are resistant now to the rising water temperatures, they are of course still sensitive to local pollution, overfishing, et cetera, and they need to be protected from this now..