Hamdan bin Zayed launches the largest coral reef rehabilitation project


Abu Dhabi: «The Gulf»
His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, representative of the ruler in the Al Dhafra region and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, launched the largest coral reef rehabilitation project in the region, including the cultivation of more than one million colonies, to increase its area.
The launch coincides with World Oceans Day on June 8, and comes within the framework of a comprehensive plan developed by the authority, to preserve this important ecosystem and ensure its sustainability.
His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed stressed the importance of this project in supporting the authority’s efforts to preserve coral reefs, which are among the most important and most productive marine habitats. It supports the biodiversity in Abu Dhabi, provides a natural habitat for many types of fish and marine creatures, as well as its role in protecting beaches from erosion, supporting the commercial fishing profession, and many recreational and tourism activities, and it is a tributary to support fish stocks.
His Highness said, “Despite the difficult environmental conditions in which coral reefs live in the Arabian Gulf region and the world, they are able to thrive and provide habitats for a variety of marine species; It has a high flexibility that enabled it to adapt to the highest temperatures, in an unusual way, which distinguished it from the rest of the other types of coral reefs.”
While Mohammed Ahmed Al Bawardi, Minister of State for Defense Affairs and Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, said, “The Emirate of Abu Dhabi alone contains 34 types of hard corals, spread in several areas, including Ras Ghanada, Bu Tinah, Saadiyat and Al Nouf. By implementing this program, coral nurseries will be developed, which will contribute to reducing the negative impact of the natural pressures on coral reefs, resulting from climate change and rising sea floor temperatures. In addition, it leads to an increase in the coral area and the rehabilitation of damaged areas to preserve the great heritage, economic and scientific value of coral reefs.”
Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, managing director of the authority, said: The most important challenge facing coral reefs is the high water temperature, which increases heat stress, resulting in the phenomenon of “coral bleaching.” Noting that in 2017, the Emirate of Abu Dhabi lost more than 73% of it, due to the bleaching phenomenon. The world has also lost most of its coral reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, which has lost more than 50% of its area.”
Through the surveys conducted by the authority, it monitored the improvement of the condition of coral reefs in the waters of the emirate, with rates ranging between 10 and 18% during the last two years. These results indicate the ability in which the reefs can recover, if they do not face the threat of climate change.
Dr. Sheikha Al Dhaheri, Secretary-General of the authority, said, “Since 2005, the authority has implemented a program to monitor the state of coral reefs, by conducting a seasonal survey that includes collecting data from 10 stations spread in different locations. It also developed a plan to manage and preserve coral reefs, in coordination with its partners in the emirate, to understand reef ecosystems, reduce negative impacts and restore degraded areas, as well as its cooperation with a number of academic institutions, such as New York University Abu Dhabi, in monitoring, and its cooperation with Zayed University to multiply coral reefs in the laboratory and re-cultivation.
She pointed out that “the program aims to reduce the negative impacts on coral reefs due to climate change, as well as increase the area of ​​coral reefs in marine waters.”
The first phase of the project, which will be implemented over a period of three years, includes selecting nursery sites to ensure a protected growth environment, evaluating the coral source area and nursery area, according to water quality, depths and temperatures standards, and establishing a number of underwater nurseries to care for and grow coral reefs, with a capacity of up to to a million colonies. The second phase includes harvesting the reef nursery stock, transporting it to the sites for rehabilitation, and planting the pieces produced in the affected areas to restore the integrated coral system. In the third phase, stock harvesting and site restoration will be completed by planting coral pieces in degraded areas.


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