Jackson Estuarine Laboratory

Current status of coral reefs in the United Arab Emirates: Distribution, extent, and community structure with implications for management


Coral reefs of the United Arab Emirates were once extensive, but have declined dramatically in recent decades. Marine management and policy have been hampered by outdated and inaccurate habitat maps and habitat quality information. We combined existing recent datasets with our newly mapped coral habitats to provide a current assessment of nation-wide extent, and performed quantitative surveys of communities at 23 sites to assess coral cover and composition. Over 132 km2 of coral habitat was mapped, averaging 28.6 ± 3.8% live coral cover at surveyed sites. In the Arabian Gulf low cover, low richness Porites dominated communities characterized western Abu Dhabi, while reefs northeast of Abu Dhabi city generally contained higher richness and cover, and were dominated by merulinids (formerly faviids). Distinct communities occur in the Sea of Oman, where cover and richness were low. We provide management recommendations to enhance conservation of vulnerable coral reefs in the UAE.

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Marine Pollution Bulletin



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