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Israel is joining forces with Arab states to save coral from climate change destruction


A still image taken from underwater video footage shows corals and fish near barrels, as divers from Israel Nature and Parks Authority remove corals from objects which are part of industrial debris left by Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company (EAPC) after it scaled back its operations, in the Red Sea, near Katza beach in Eilat, Israel March 10, 2019.  Courtesy Omri Omessi/Israel Nature and Parks Authority/Handout via REUTERS
Political differences are being put aside for the sake of the Red Sea's coral reefs.
Scientists from Israel and neighbouring Arab countries are joining forces to save Red Sea coral reefs from the threat of climate change.
The alliance is the brainchild of Moaz Fine, an Israeli professor at Tel Aviv’s Bar-Ilan University, who invited marine experts from the countries that border the Red Sea to collaborate at a new research centre. The team will comprise representatives from Israel, Eritrea, Jordan and Egypt, with scientists from Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen and Djibouti, which do not recognise Israel.
The countries have put aside political differences in the interests of protecting the natural world they share.

Coping with stress
Scientists, ecologists and oceanographers will come together at the new research centre, based in Bern, Switzerland, to study the impact of bleaching on the Red Sea reefs.

Bleaching occurs when coral reacts to changes in sea temperature, light conditions or nutrients. As global warming increases water temperatures, the delicate balance of reef ecosystems is disrupted, forcing coral to eject the algae that live and feed on them.
What is coral bleaching?

Image: National Ocean Service

The stressed coral turns white and although it isn’t dead at this point, if the algae loss is prolonged it becomes vulnerable to disease and can eventually die.

But it’s not just coral that is affected when bleaching occurs, as algae forms the foundation of multiple food chains. When algae disappears, creatures higher up the food chain disappear too, turning bleached reefs into underwater deserts.
A climate of change
Although global warming is increasing the scale and frequency of mass bleaching events, coral in the Red Sea has suffered less damage than reefs in other parts of the world, such as in Hawaii and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The research team will investigate studies that suggest Northern Red Sea corals and those in the Gulf of Aqaba are able to withstand higher sea temperatures than in other places, which could help the fight to save the world’s reefs.

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