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Coral Bleaching and Recovery in Dubai over the Past Decade
Reference
Burt, J., Bartholomew, A. and Usseglio, P. 2008. Recovery of corals a decade after a bleaching event in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Marine Biology 154: 27-36.

Background
The authors write that "dense coral patch reefs in the Saih Al-Shaib and Jebel Ali areas of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, were heavily impacted by a 2C positive sea surface temperature anomaly in the summer[s] of both 1996 and 1998," and that "bleaching virtually eliminated Acropora species that had constituted over 98.7% of the reef building coral in the area."

What was done
To determine the extent to which the affected coral assemblages had changed since the time of the last bleaching event, Burt et al. analyzed the composition, condition and recruitment patterns of coral communities in the vicinity of Saih Al-Shaib some ten years later.

What was learned
After having been "virtually eliminated," the researchers report that "in the decade since the mass bleaching event, there are signs of extensive recovery of Acropora cover in parts of Saih Al-Shaib, and there is little evidence of a phase-shift in coral dominance to species less affected by bleaching." They also note that "despite the loss of several species, over 85% of the Acropora cover is composed of the same species that had dominated Acropora assemblages in the Arabian Gulf prior to the bleaching event," and they add that "there has also not been a phase-shift to dominance by macro-algae."

What it means
Noting that "the patterns of resilience and resistance observed in Saih Al-Shaib have important implications both regionally and globally," Burt et al. state that "the rapid recovery of corals following major stress events 2-4 years apart observed in this study does indicate that regional pockets of resilient taxa can withstand these perturbations." However, they warn that "large-scale coastal development, land reclamation projects, and development of desalination facilities throughout Dubai are a threat to these patch reefs," and that they "may inhibit or even eliminate the natural recovery and resilience capacity of even these hardy corals and coral reef communities." This conclusion echoes our long-held contention that local negative impacts of humanity are much more detrimental to the world's coral reefs than are the global effects that may -- or may not -- be impacting the planet's climate.

Reviewed 11 June 2008