Scientists seek to solve the mystery of disappearing coral in Abu Dhabi. Bring in Inspector Clouseau!
It doesn't take a whole lot of common sense to figure this one out: you build monolithic structures and artificial islands on a fragile seashore along the Persian Gulf, have oil tankers pulling petrochemicals from the land which leaks into the water. Add a little global warming, sewage and fish farming to the mix, and well, corals -- one of the most delicate structures in the marine ecosystem -- just die.
That's what's been happening west of the city of Abu Dhabi, the capitol of the United Arab Emirates, where a coral "wipe out" 10 years ago, has failed to revive itself. The whole sad story of the mess humanity is doing to this world makes me think of the old Bruce Cockburn song "Wondering Where the Lions Are."
According to the Abu Dhabi newspaper, The National, the coral reefs west Abu Dhabi are not regrowing, as was hoped. Now, a US-Abu Dhabi team seeks to find out why. Led by Prof. John Burt from New York University, the team will investigate and study nine locations along the Abu Dhabi coastline to find out more.
"We are covering reefs all the way from the border with Qatar to the border with Dubai," said Prof Burt to the newspaper, who noted that only around 20% of the original coral is left since he started monitoring bleaching events.
The reef in question, genus Acropora, west of Abu Dhabu is particularly sensitive to environmental changes. They are always almost the first ones to die in cases of high salinity, temperature or high amounts of sediment," Prof Burt said.
Bye, bye grouper bye, bye
We already know that although coral reefs cover just a small amount of the ocean floor and they house some its greatest marine life diversity. In the Abu Dhabu region, if coral disappear so will certain types of commercial fishing, such as the orange spotted grouper. Pollution from commercial fish farming and silt from coastal destruction takes its toll on marine life - we"ve already learned about the effects of coastal erosion in this evolutionary hotspot, so why the big question of where the corals are. Human activity have killed them.
Reefs east of Abu Dhabi have showed signs of recovery, but those in the west have not. Prof. Burt believes that western conditions such as high salinity and warmer temperatures could be the reason. Or poor water circulation. We think it's all these factors mixed in with all of the above manmade causes: coastal erosion, pollution and global warming. Meanwhile Prof. Burt is going to test the waters with a series of ceramic plates at nine locales to see what clings to the surface. Coral larvae he's to collect may give some important clues. We hope some proof to the international community who can stop the frenetic takeover of the Gulf waterways.
Meanwhile, if you are still wondering where the coral reefs - or lions are - mull over the question of our place in history with this great Bruce Cockburn song... thinking about eternity (see video below). If you want to do your part, consider joining or supporting an eco-organization in the United Arab Emirates. We wish we knew of some worthwhile to recommend. Start with the UAE's environment ministry. They might have some good ideas. Or give us a shout out in the comments.
(Above image: Pollution from Iraq's Tigris River flows straight into the Persian Gulf. Image via AP and the website utilities ME).
This story was first published on Karin's Middle East environment news blog Green Prophet. Follow the RSS feed, or via Twitter @greenprophet or @kloostermania