November 30, 2010

Successful EcoExpedition Completed in Oman


By Reef Check United Arab Emirates Coordinator Rita Bento

For the second year, Biosphere Expeditions, together with Emirates Diving Association, organized a Reef Check EcoExpedition to the stunning Musandam Peninsula in Oman. Two groups of eight divers each spent a week being certified as Reef Check EcoDivers and conducting surveys. The participants were a diverse group, coming from Switzerland, Germany, The Netherlands, Australia, UK, Finland, Norway, Portugal and Oman. After three days of intensive Reef Check training, nine surveys were done each week, including areas on both sides of Musandam in the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Almost all sites surveyed in the 2009 EcoExpedition were surveyed again this year, and data will be analyzed carefully to check for any changes.

The Musandam Peninsula, also known as Ru’us al-Jibal, is an exclave of Oman separated from Oman by the United Arab Emirates. It is situated on the Arabian Peninsula in the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow passage that links the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.

Even though the Arabian Gulf’s corals are unique and seem to endure extremely harsh conditions when compared to corals in other parts of the world, scientists are increasingly concerned that any additional stress, imposed by global climate change or regional coastal development, may accelerate coral die-off. Reefs in the Arabian Gulf have been devastated by major coral bleaching events (in 1990, 1996, 1998 and 2002), cyclone Gonu in 2007, and recently by extensive coastal developments along the Arabian Peninsula. The impact extends beyond the shoreline, since turbidity and suspended sediments are dispersed from the dredge or reclamation sites. In addition, currents are diverted by coastal engineering, altering the movement of sediments and causing them to accumulate.

The coral reef losses from climate-related devastation and massive coastal development on the Arabian Peninsula have made this region amongst the most damaged in the world with the lowest predictions for recovery. According to recent estimates, 30% of the coral reefs are at a threatened-critical stage and up to 65% of the coral reefs may have been lost already due to natural causes (fluctuation of temperatures, diseases), and anthropogenic stresses (oil pollution, unmanaged coastal development, unregulated commercial and recreational fishing and diving). Nevertheless, the 34% of hard coral coverage measured by Reef Check surveys in 2009 is encouraging.

Many thanks to our partners Sultan Qaboos University, the Oman Ministry for Environment and Climate Affairs, the Oman Tourism Board, as well as the United Nations Environment Programme, the World Conservation Monitoring Centre and the International Coral Reef Action Network (ICRAN). Further support comes from a Six Senses (Zighy Bay) environmental grant, as well as from HSBC, Land Rover and Swarovski Optik.

Join us in Oman in 2011! Two trips have been scheduled for October. Click here for details.