Peacemakers save the Red Sea with science

red sea, diving, first female dive master, Egypt, Sinai Peninsula, muslim diver, Suezett al-Fallal

The Red Sea is in danger of environmental degradation. Saudi Arabia is building its so called eco city Neom on the Red Sea, tourism in Sinai is ruining reefs and an oil and gas pipeline using cargo ships is planned from Saudi Arabia up through Israel. Catastrophes can strike at any moment. Even now an oil tanker off the coast of Yemen seized by rebels can blow up spilling more oil than the Exxon Valdez into the Red Sea.

Neom desert location

Location for proposed Neom City, on the Red Sea.

Who is going to help? The Red Sea Reef Foundation (RSRF) has awarded research grants to five scientists from Israel and Jordan who are studying corals in one of the world’s largest marine refuges from climate change. Each selected project involves an innovative approach, such as using deep neural networks to derive data on coral reef fish populations, characterizing corals’ changing microbiome, and developing coral bioindicators of heavy metal pollution in seawater and of coral resilience to stress from rising ocean temperatures.

FSO oil tanker from above

The FSO Safer is a sinking oil tanker off the coast of Yemen. Rebels won’t let international bodies in to diffuse its contents.

Four of the selected projects could be applied to monitor the health of reefs in new ways, while a fifth aims to refine techniques for farming corals both in the Red Sea and beyond. This type of work is key to conservation of coral reef ecosystems. With 90% of the world’s coral reefs expected to be severely degraded by mid-century due to warming ocean temperatures, the study and conservation of the thermally resilient reefs in the northern Red Sea are a global imperative. These reefs may be among the last to survive our century, as they can thrive even if their environment warms by several degrees centigrade.

French Polynesia coral reefs Khalid bin sultan

Karine Kleinhaus, President and Founder of the Red Sea Reef Foundation commented “Each awardee is a graduate or post-graduate student doing innovative science. Graduate students with new ideas need support to move their research, and the field, forward. It is exciting to support local scientific capacity in the Red Sea region, as this is critical to advancing successful conservation of the Red Sea’s 4000km of unique reefs.”

The awardees are: Husam Al-Qudah, Yarmouk University, Jordan; Victor China, Ben Gurion University, Israel; Hala Ghazi, Al-Hussein Bin Talal University, Jordan; Naama-Rose Kochman, Bar-Ilan University, Israel; Natalie Levy, Bar-Ilan University, Israel.

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