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CORAL REEFS IN KUWAIT: MESMERIZING AND IMPORTANT
By Nancy Papathanasopoulou, Kuwait Turtle Conservation Project , July (2010) edition of bazaar
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Photography
by Ali Alhafez/KTCP
Photography by Ali Alhafez/KTCP
 

Coral reefs are the world’s most diverse and beautiful marine ecosystems. The incredible variety of life on them as well as the bright colorations and complex interactions of reef organisms have fascinated many a tourist and a scientist, who have taken their pleasure visiting and studying these extraordinary rainforests of the sea wherever on the planet they can be found.

Corals and their congregations, the reef, are best developing in warm, clear, shallow seas where there is an abundance of light. Reefs are primarily created by reef-building corals and the reef framework is formed by deposits of hard calcium carbonate skeletons, which are secreted by living corals as well as skeletons of dead coral cemented together by coralline algae. Like rainforests, coral reefs photosynthe, host thousands of algae, corals, worms, molluscs, crustaceans, fish and other animals and constitute probably the most important ecosystems in the world. They also act as natural wave-breakers protecting coastal areas from erosion and help create stable reef islands. They are invaluable to life on earth as well as to the human existence due to all these functions.

In Kuwait, coral reefs are of international interest mainly because they have grown in environmental conditions previously thought to be too extreme to allow corals to survive. They have not been destroyed by the massive Gulf War oil-spills in 1991 and this was documented by several international scientific expeditions. A new species of coral was discovered by scientists in 1995 which may explain the tolerance of reefs in general, in the Arabian Gulf. There are lots of fascinating facts surrounding reefs in Kuwait.

The Kuwait Turtle Conservation project, sponsored by TOTAL Foundation and TOTAL Kuwait and in cooperation with the Voluntary Work Center and the Scientific Center, encounters corals on islents; Garouh and Umm Al-Maradim as part of its work on sea turtles. Coral reefs in Kuwait are largely restricted to the southern area of the country, including a range of offshore platform and smaller patch reefs, as well as near-shore patch reefs and fringing coral communities along the southern coastline. Depth is rarely more than 15 meters and the best developed reefs are found around the aforementioned islets.

Umm Al-Maradim is 550m long and its reef is about 1.4km long and 1.1km wide. It is mostly constituted by massive Porites corals as well as Acropora and Stylophora. Amazing fauna and flora is to be found on this reef.

Garouh is a smaller island. The round-shaped sand cay is about 200m long, in the center of an oval-shaped reef which extends 1.3 km in length and about 600m in width. This reef is one of the most pristine, diverse, and beautiful reefs in Kuwait, hosting fish nurseries, turtles and many other species. Like in the case of Umm Al-Maradim, this reef, too, is dominated by Acropora and Porites corals.

In the summer and early autumn months, the KTCP team has encountered hard and soft corals, sometimes with colorful brittlestars tangled up around them. Tiny creatures such as shrimps, crabs and blennies peek out of branch formations and tiny holes, while damselfish, lionfish, nudibranchs and needlefish seem to find a heavenly home in the shallows. Snorkelers can swim amongst them as equals there.

But Acropora (Table) corals are particularly vulnerable to destruction. Their huge branches extend up to 4 meters in diameter sometimes. This length takes many, many years to develop and it is a real disaster for many of these mesmerizing formations to succumb to one instant reckless anchoring of a leisure boat. Dive teams, such as Senyar and the Kuwait Dive team, are placing mooring buoys all over the shallow perimeters of Garouh, Umm Al-Maradim and Kubbar islands, in areas convenient for leisure vessels to moor. In order to keep enjoying the amazing riches of Kuwaiti reefs, it is necessary to be cautious while anchoring, littering and spear gun fishing. Keeping in mind that it is the home of thousands of creatures to which we come as visitors, it is imperative to treat these unique and fragile ecosystems with a maximum of respect. It is our duty to preserve them intact for future generations to enjoy exactly like we do today.

 

For more on the Kuwait Turtle Conservation Project, please long onto: www.kuwaitturtles.com.

 
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