Coral Assemblages in the Southeastern Arabian Gulf (Qatar and Abu Dhabi, UAE): Various Stages of Acropora Recovery a Decade after Recurrent Elevated Temperature Anomalies


This study describes the coral communities near Qatarand Abu Dhabi (UAE) ten years after the recurrent elevated temperature anomalies of 1996, 1998 and 2002 which resulted in the mass mortality of Acropora spp. Data derived from photo transects taken over a four-year period were analyzed to characterize the existing coral communities, to compare these to the pre- and post-disturbance communities in the adjacent waters near Dubai, and to project the time-frames required for the communities to return to pre-disturbance levels. The massive corals, dominated by Porites spp. and faviids, showed no long-terms affects associated with exposures to the three thermal anomalies; whereas acroporids, comprising 0% - 8% of the live coral cover, were in various stages of recovery. Projections indicated that acroporid regeneration will require 15 - 32 years to achieve the ≥40% pre-disturbance area cover. The existing communities are too small in size and number to be self-seeding; thus, they are dependent upon the recruitment of larvae from remote refuges of colonies that survived the thermal anomalies. Efforts to identify these refuges and to establish appropriate multi-national conservation programs shall become critical to the future survival of acroporids throughout the southeasternArabian Gulfas the projected regeneration times exceed the periods between disturbances, which are expected to occur more frequently as a result of global climate change.

Share and Cite:

K. Foster, G. Foster and S. Al-Harthi, "Coral Assemblages in the Southeastern Arabian Gulf (Qatar and Abu Dhabi, UAE): Various Stages of Acropora Recovery a Decade after Recurrent Elevated Temperature Anomalies," Open Journal of Marine Science, Vol. 3 No. 2A, 2013, pp. 28-39. doi: 10.4236/ojms.2013.32A004.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] C. Wilkinson, “Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 1998,” Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, 1998.
[2] T. Goreau, T. McClanahan, R. Hayes and A. Strong, “Conservation of Coral Reefs after the 1998 Global Bleaching Event,” Conservation Biology, Vol. 14, No. 1, 2000, pp. 5-15. doi:10.1046/j.1523-1739.2000.00011.x
[3] C. Wilkinson, “Status of the Coral Reefs of the World: 2000,” Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, 2000.
[4] J. F. Bruno, C. Siddon, J. D. Whitman, P. L. Colin and M. A. Toscano, “El Nino Related Coral Bleaching in Palau, Western Caroline Islands,” Coral Reefs, Vol. 20, No. 2, 2001, pp. 127-136. doi:10.1007/s003380100151
[5] P. J. Mumby, J. R. M. Chisholm, A. J. Edwards, C. D. Clark, E. B. Roark, S. Andrefouet and J. Jaubert, “Unprecedented Bleaching-Induced Mortality in Porites spp. at Rangiron Atoll, French Polynesia,” Marine Biology, Vol. 139, No. 1, 2001, pp. 183-189. doi:10.1007/s002270100575
[6] R. B. Aronson, W. F. Precht, M. A. Toscano and K. H. Koltes, “The 1998 Bleaching Event and its Aftermath on a Coral Reef in Belize,” Marine Biology, Vol. 141, No. 3, 2002, pp. 435-447. doi:10.1007/s00227-002-0842-5
[7] B. Riegl, “Coral in a Non-Reef Setting in the Southern Arabian Gulf (Dubai, UAE): Fauna and Community Structure in Response to Recurring Mass Mortality,” Coral Reefs, Vol. 18, No. 1, 1999, pp. 63-73. doi:10.1007/s003380050156
[8] B. Riegl, “Effects of the 1996 and 1998 Positive SeaSurface Temperature Anomalies on Corals, Coral Diseases and Fish in the Arabian Gulf (Dubai, UAE),” Marine Biology, Vol. 140, No. 1, 2002, pp. 29-40. doi:10.1007/s002270100676
[9] D. J. J. Kinsman, “Reef Coral Tolerance of High Temperatures and Salinities,” Nature, Vol. 202, No. 4939, 1964, pp. 1280-1282. doi:10.1038/2021280a0
[10] E. A. Shinn, “Coral Reef Recovery in Florida and the Persian Gulf,” Environmental Geology, Vol. 1, No. 4, 1976, pp. 241-254. doi:10.1007/BF02407510
[11] K. E. Carpenter, E. P. L. Harrison, G. Hodgson, A. H. Asaffar and S. H. Alhazeem, “The Corals and Coral Reef Fishes of Kuwait,” Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research, Kuwait, 1997.
[12] S. L. Coles, “Coral Species Diversity and Environmental Factors in the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman: A Comparison to the Indo-Pacific Region,” Atoll Research Bulletin, Vol. 507, 2003, pp. 497-508. doi:10.5479/si.00775630.507.1
[13] H. Rezai, S. C. Wilson, M. Claereboudt and B. Riegl, “Coral Reef Status in the ROPME Sea Area: Arabian/Persian Gulf, Gulf of Oman and Arabian Sea,” In: C. Wilkinson, Ed., Status of Coral Reefs of the World, 2004, pp. 155-170.
[14] M. R. Claereboudt, “Reef Corals and Coral Reefs of the Gulf of Oman,” Historical Association of Oman, Oman, 2006.
[15] C. R. C. Sheppard and R. Loughland, “Coral Mortality and Recovery in Response to Increasing Temperature in the Southern Arabian Gulf,” Aquatic Ecosystem Health, Vol. 5, No. 4, 2002, pp. 395-402. doi:10.1080/14634980290002020
[16] B. Riegl, “Climate Change and Coral Reefs: Different Effects in Two High-Latitude Areas (Arabian Gulf, South Africa),” Coral Reefs, Vol. 22, No. 4, 2003, pp. 433-446. doi:10.1007/s00338-003-0335-0
[17] C. R. C. Sheppard, “Predicted Recurrences of Mass Coral Mortality in the Indian Ocean,” Nature, Vol. 425, No. 6955, 2003, pp. 294-297. doi:10.1038/nature01987
[18] S. L. Coles and B. E. Brown, “Coral Bleaching-Capacity for Acclimatization and Adaptation,” Advances in Marine Biology, Vol. 46, 2003, pp. 183-223. doi:10.1016/S0065-2881(03)46004-5
[19] J. Burt, A. Bartholomew and P. Usseglio, “Recovery of Corals a Decade after a Bleaching Event in Dubai, United Arab Emirates,” Marine Biology, Vol. 154, No. 1, 2008, pp. 27-36. doi:10.1007/s00227-007-0892-9
[20] B. Riegl, “Inhibition of Reef Framework by Frequent Disturbance: Examples from the Arabian Gulf, South Africa, and the Cayman Islands,” Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, Vol. 175, No. 1-4, 2001, pp. 79-101. doi:10.1016/S0031-0182(01)00387-X
[21] K. E. Kohler and S. M. Gill, “Coral Point Count with Excel Extensions (CPCe): A Visual Basic Program for the Determination of Coral and Substrate Coverage using Random Point Count Methodology,” Computers & Geosciences, Vol. 32, No. 9, 2006, pp. 1259-1269. doi:10.1016/j.cageo.2005.11.009
[22] R. M. Reynolds, “Physical Oceanography of the Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, and the Gulf of Oman-Results from the Mt Mitchell Expedition,” Marine Pollution Bulletin, Vol. 27, 1993, pp. 35-59. doi:10.1016/0025-326X(93)90007-7
[23] K. R. Clarke and R. N. Gorley, “PRIMER v6: User Manual/Tutorial,” PRIMER-E, Plymouth, 2006.
[24] B. M. Riegl, S. J. Purkis, J. Keck and G. P. Rowlands, “Monitored and Modeled Coral Population Dynamics and the Refuge Concept,” Marine Pollution Bulletin, Vol. 58, No. 1, 2009, pp. 24-38. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2008.10.019
[25] H. Caswell, “Matrix Population Models: Construction, Analysis, and Interpretation,” Sinauer Associates, Inc., Sunderland, 2001.
[26] N. Owen-Smith, “Introduction to Modeling in Wildlife and Resource Conservation,” Blackwell Publishing, Malden, 2007.
[27] J. H. Connell, “Disturbance and Recovery of Coral Assemblages,” Coral Reefs, Vol. 16, No. 5, 1997, pp. S101S113. doi:10.1007/s003380050246
[28] R. Ninio, M. Meekan, T. Done and H. Sweatman, “Temporal Patterns in Coral Assemblages on the Great Barrier Reef from Local to Large Spatial Scales,’ Marine Ecology Progress Series, Vol. 194, 2000, pp. 65-74. doi:10.3354/meps194065
[29] J. F. Bruno and E. R. Selig, “Regional Decline of Coral Cover in the Indo-Pacific: Timing, Extent and Subregional Comparisons,” PLoS One, Vol. 2, No. 8, 2007, Article ID: e711. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000711
[30] B. M. Riegl and S. J. Purkis, “Model of Coral Population Response to Accelerated Bleaching and Mass Mortality in a Changing Climate,” Ecological Modelling, Vol. 220, No. 2, 2009, pp. 192-208. doi:10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2008.09.022
[31] P. L. Harrison and C. C. Wallace, “Reproduction, Dispersal and Recruitment of Scleractinian Corals,” In: Z. Dubinsky, Ed., Coral Reef Ecosystems, Ecosystems of the World, Elsevier Science Publishers, Amsterdam, 1990, pp. 133-207.
[32] P. L. Harrison, “Sexual Reproduction of Scleractinian Corals,” Coral Reefs: An Ecosystem in Transition, Part 3, Springer Publishers, 2011, pp. 59-85. doi:10.1007/978-94-007-0114-4_6
[33] P. L. Harrison, “Status of the Coral Reefs of Kuwait,” Final Report to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the United Nations Development Programme, 1995.
[34] P. W. Glynn and J. S. Feingold, “Hydrocoral Species Not Extinct,” Science, Vol. 257, No. 5078, 1992, p. 1845.
[35] V. R. Hall and T. P. Hughes, “Reproductive Strategies of Modular Organisms: Comparative Studies of Reef-Building Corals,” Ecology, Vol. 77, No. 3, 1996, pp. 950-963. doi:10.2307/2265514

Copyright © 2023 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.