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Living Oceans Foundation leads Red Sea expedition


Scientist divers to investigate coral reefs for impact of global warming, pollution and population growth in and around Farasan Islands

Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation will lead an all-star team of scientist divers on an expedition to study the "rainforests" of the Red Sea. State-of-the-art technology will enable the team to complete years of coral reef research in just three weeks. The research will focus on threats to coral health such as global climate change, ecotourism, over-fishing, pollution and development.

"This will be some of the most advanced coral reef environment research, with the fastest turnaround and major international impact, to date," said Philip Renaud, executive director of Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation. "Our findings will guide future international policy on coral reef protection and Marine Protected Areas management."

Coral health has global economic, social and ecological implications:

  • Coral reefs support more than 25 percent of all marine fish species.
  • Reefs provide fisheries with 6 million metric tons of fish annually. Industries based on coral reefs provide millions of jobs.
  • The total value of the world’s reef resources is approximately $375 billion each year.
  • Coral reefs are a primary source of new drugs and biochemicals.

The expedition represents the first in which a Saudi Arabian government commission has partnered with a U.S. foundation to work in Saudi territory. The team, scheduled to leave May 3, will include U.S., U.K., Canadian, Austrian, French and Saudi scientists. They will map and survey the Farasan Islands Marine Protected Area, off the coast of Jizan, Saudi Arabia.

"The Farasan Islands are of particular interest for their biodiversity and range of human impact," said Renaud. "Their population has quadrupled in a decade and the ecotourism and commercial fishing industries in the region have grown tremendously."

The Foundation has selected 15 schools (5 U.S., 5 U.K., 5 Saudi Arabian) to participate virtually in the expedition. High school students studying marine science will track and analyze expedition progress and participate in near real-time Q&A with the scientists.

Also joining the research team is a professional film crew. Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation plans to use footage from the expedition to produce a professional documentary film.

Patrick Slevin | EurekAlert!
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