Eilat's corals stand better chance of resilience than other sites

September 30, 2013
This is an example of colorful coral in the Gulf of Eilat. Credit: Amatzia Genin

Israel's southern Red Sea resort of Eilat, one of whose prime attractions is its colorful and multi-shaped underwater coral reefs, may have a clear advantage in the future over rival coral-viewing sites around the world, scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Bar-Ilan University have found.

Coral reefs, earth's richest and most diverse ecosystem, are deteriorating rapidly. One of the most devastating causes for that deterioration is bleaching, which typically occurs when seawater temperatures exceed the local summer maximum by one-half to one and half degrees Celsius. At those higher temperatures, the coral's symbiotic algae are lost, leading to the coral's bleaching and eventually its death.

But, while the frequency of coral bleaching is globally increasing, no bleaching event has been observed in the Gulf of Eilat/Aqaba (Eilat sits at the northern end of the gulf), even when nominally bleaching conditions prevail. The Israeli scientists explain the enigmatic lack of bleaching in the Gulf by the existence of a "warm-water barrier" at the southern Red Sea, allowing only heat-tolerant genotypes of corals to enter the Red Sea from the Gulf of Aden. This occurred following the disappearance of corals from the Red Sea during the last glacial period, some 15,000 years ago. The scientists predict that no is likely to occur in the Gulf of Eilat/Aqaba in the next 100 years, making it a unique refuge for in the world's warming oceans.

Explore further: Coral genomes under microscope in climate race

More information: The findings of the Israeli researchers, entitled "A Coral Reef Refuge in the Red Sea," was published on Sept. 23 in the journal Global Change Biology.

Related Stories

Coral genomes under microscope in climate race

November 8, 2012

Researchers from Australia and Saudi Arabia launched a project Thursday which they hope will help them understand the genetic makeup of corals and how they react to climate change.

How do corals survive in the hottest reefs on the planet?

February 1, 2013

Coral reefs are predicted to decline under the pressure of global warming. However, a number of coral species can survive at seawater temperatures even higher than predicted for the tropics during the next century. How they ...

Nemo can't go home

August 20, 2013

Round the planet the loveable clownfish Nemo may be losing his home, a new scientific study has revealed.

Artificial reef in Red sea teems with life

August 20, 2013

In 2007, an artificial reef designed by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) researchers was placed in the Gulf of Eilat to reduce environmental pressure on the region's natural reef. Now teeming with life, a new study ...

Clues in coral bleaching mystery

September 5, 2013

Coral reefs are tremendously important for ocean biodiversity, as well as for the economic and aesthetic value they provide to their surrounding communities. Unfortunately they have been in great decline in recent years, ...

Recommended for you

New study sheds light on end of Snowball Earth period

August 24, 2015

The second ice age during the Cryogenian period was not followed by the sudden and chaotic melting-back of the ice as previously thought, but ended with regular advances and retreats of the ice, according to research published ...

Earth's mineralogy unique in the cosmos

August 26, 2015

New research from a team led by Carnegie's Robert Hazen predicts that Earth has more than 1,500 undiscovered minerals and that the exact mineral diversity of our planet is unique and could not be duplicated anywhere in the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.