Abu Dhabi launches largest coral reef rehabilitation project in the region

Emirate lost 73 per cent of its reefs in 2017 due to mass coral bleaching caused by water temperature rise

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Abu Dhabi has announced plans for the region's largest coral reef rehabilitation project.

Its environment agency said it would rehabilitate more than a million colonies of coral reef through a replanting programme.

The announcement was made on Tuesday, World Oceans Day.

Abu Dhabi contains 34 types of hard corals in several locations, including Ras Ghanada, Butinah, Saadiyat and Al Nouf.

The project aims to reduce the negative impact of climate change on coral reefs

In 2017, Abu Dhabi lost 73 per cent of its reefs due to mass coral bleaching, caused by an increase in water temperatures.

Since 2005, the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi has implemented a programme to monitor and control the state of coral reefs through seasonal surveys, using data from 10 stations across the emirate.

The most recent observation found an improvement of 10 per cent to 18 per cent in coral reef conditions in Abu Dhabi in the past year.

The emirate's coral reefs provide a natural habitat for many types of fish and marine life, said Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, the Ruler's Representative in the Al Dhafra Region and the agency's chairman of the board of directors.

He said they also protect the beaches from erosion and support fisheries and many recreational and tourism activities in Abu Dhabi.

“Despite the harsh environmental conditions for coral reefs here in the Arabian Gulf, they are able to adapt and provide habitats for a variety of marine species in the region," said Sheikh Hamdan.

"They are highly resilient, which enabled them to adapt to the highest temperatures in the world in an unusual way, distinguishing it from other types of coral reefs.”

Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, secretary general of the EAD, said nurseries will be developed to increase the total area of coral reefs and rehabilitate affected areas.

“This will be achieved by harvesting small fragments of the various coral reef species in the emirate's waters, relocating them to the nursery and nurturing their growth until they can be re-transferred back to the degraded reefs for establishment,” she said.

“The project aims to reduce the negative impact of climate change on coral reefs, as well as increase the coral reef total area in the emirate’s waters, help to rehabilitate areas affected by climate change and human activities, and conduct research and studies to find out the best and most adaptable coral species.”