Reef Check is the United Nations’ official coral reef monitoring program, leaded by a non-profit international marine conservation organisation headquartered in Los Angeles, California, United States, but using data from volunteer scuba diver teams in over 80 countries.
Reef Check in Dubai and UAE is promoted by Emirates Diving Association (EDA), a non-profit voluntary federal organization and is accredited by UNEP as an International Environmental Organisation; EDA was established by Federal Decree No. (23) Under Article No. (21) on 23/02/1995 and has chosen Dubai as its base.
Reef Check first conducted a global survey of coral reef health in 1997, by Reef Check Foundation itself. The focus was and is to understand the global conditions of our coral reefs, establishing a methodology that could be used all around the world, and done by divers with different backgrounds, not only marine biologists.
The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi is conducting surveys to track the condition of coral reefs in the emirate’s waters through 10 newly installed monitoring and control stations.
The monitoring stations are located in Ras Ghaanda, Al Saadiyat, Al Dabeya, Al Hayl, Delma, Makasseb, Al Yasat, Baraka and Sir Bani Yas.
The ten stations are periodically inspected at six month intervals to record coral reef data, according to the head of the Marine Evaluation and Control Unit at the environment agency, Mr. Ibrahim Bakla.
Random visits are also conducted to carry out specific surveys or to assess the condition of the coral and identify any effects of natural or man-made causes.
The stations monitor temperature fluctuations hourly throughout the year and percentage data related to coral growth, live coral, dead coral and coral diseases.
The systems also monitor the algae that grows around corals. Algae are also studied along with coral reef fish and living organisms.
The health of corals has highly deteriorated in the tropics and subtropics of the world, including the Arabian Gulf area, due to rises in temperature and coastal development, which is one of the main reasons for the increased risks to these vital coral reefs.
This is precisely why Professor John Burt, head of the NYU Abu Dhabi Marine Biology Lab, studies the reefs in theUAE.
The Arabian Gulf is the world’s hottest sea. Abu Dhabi reefs can provide incredible insight into how corals may adapt to increasing temperatures expected under future climate change.
said Prof Burt.
Experts said studies have shown that despite the low biological diversity of coral reefs in general, it appears that protected reefs to return to their normal condition and replenish their losses.
In a collaborative project in March of this year between New York University Abu Dhabi and University of Southampton in the UK, researchers identified a unique species of symbiotic algae that grows in corals in the southern Arabian Gulf.
The discovery helped conservationists around the world better preserve local coral reefs, said Prof Burt.
However, the symbiotic association is vulnerable to changes in environmental conditions, particularly increases in seawater temperature.
The new monitoring stations could help collect data on reefs to see changes and correlations between temperature and coral health.
This is important to researchers as heat-stress induced loss of the algal partners from the coral host could result in the often fatal process known as “coral bleaching”, instances of which occurred in 1996 and 1998.In those years the water temperature rose up to 37.7 C°.