Effects of the 1996 and 1998 Positive Sea-Surface Temperature Anomalies on Corals, Coral Diseases and Fish in the Arabian Gulf (Dubai, UAE)
United Arab Emirates, Corals, Ecology, Water temperature, Fish ecology, Coral reef ecology
Two positive sea-surface temperature anomalies occurred in the Arabian Gulf in short sequence. Between May and August 1996 and 1998, sea-surface temperatures in the southern Arabian Gulf were elevated by 2˚C above average. The consequences for coral fauna, coral diseases and coral regeneration were studied in Dubai (United Arab Emirates) between Jebel Ali and Ras Hasyan. In 1996, coral death was widespread, affecting primarily the genus Acropora. In Acropora-dominated areas, live coral cover was reduced from 90% to about 26% in 1996, while in 1998 only a reduction from 26% to 22% of the remaining coral cover occurred. In the study area, all six Acropora species suffered total mortality in 1996, thus the coral fauna was reduced from 34 species to 27. The nearest areas with surviving Acropora were 30 km to the east (Deira) and 20 km to the west (Al Jazira). Massive coral species suffered negligible mortality, and slowly increased in space cover. The Acropora overkill turned 7.9km2 (19.7% of total coral-covered area) of previously lush coral gardens into a dead framework that was increasing bioeroded. Acropora recruitment only started in 1998, average recruit size in 1999 was 7±3 cm, and recruits were rare. Prior to the mass mortality event, coral diseases were common and seasonal (14±5% of corals, mainly Acropora, affected in summer, in winter 7±6%, mainly massives), after the mortality event seasonality was lost and infection remained below winter levels (6±5%, only massives infected). In fish, overall species richness decreased from 95 to 64 species in point counts, but frequency only decreased in one species (Pseudochromis persicus). Guild structure changed inasmuch as herbivores and planktivores increased, and invertivores decreased, although differences were not statistically significant. The most abundant family, both prior to and after the coral mass mortality, was Lutjanidae. It appears that even though much of the coral was dead, the maintenance of structural complexity allowed the fish assemblage to avoid a similar catastrophic change to that experienced by the coral assemblage.
Bernhard Riegl. 2002. Effects of the 1996 and 1998 Positive Sea-Surface Temperature Anomalies on Corals, Coral Diseases and Fish in the Arabian Gulf (Dubai, UAE) .Marine Biology , (1) : 29 -40. https://nsuworks.nova.edu/occ_facarticles/327.