Sharjah’s Environment and Protected Areas Authority, EPAA, is to collaborate with the Emirates Marine Environment Group, EMEG, to establish a large-scale coral nursery off the coast of the island of Sir Bu Nair.
The project, part of EPAA’s annual programme of conservation initiatives for the island, is designed to mitigate the impact of coral bleaching events that affected Sir Bu Nair in 2016 and 2017.
Coral bleaching typically occurs as a result of changes in environmental conditions, with increases in sea temperature being the primary cause. This contributes to the death of living organisms and is particularly hazardous to coloured algae, so that the coral turns white.
Climate change is considered by scientists to be the greatest current and future threat to the survival of coral reefs.
The EPAA has devoted considerable attention to the preservation of coral reefs, according to the Authority’s Chairperson, Hana Saif Al Suwaidi.
During the creation of the coral nursery, Al Suwaidi said, uncommon, rare or endangered coral species will be given priority, to help in their conservation and to enhance results.
Establishment of the nursery will involve the installation of multiple semi-fixed cages, attached with ropes. The individual corals will be inserted at intervals of between five and ten centimetres along the rope, by temporarily twisting, moving fragments into rope openings and making the rope taut.
Ongoing monitoring of coral survival and growth rates is expected to ensure a survival rate of approximately 94 percent of the corals, which will then be transferred to locations where an increase in coral cover and an enhancement of species diversity is required.
Such large-scale coral nurseries are proven to be successful ways of conserving local species and helping to restore damaged coral reefs.
In the future, the EPAA hopes to expand the project to include 40 species of corals that are recognised as rare or endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, IUCN.
Protected under the terms of Decree No. 25 for 2000, issued by H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, Sir Bu Nair is included on the tentative list of World Heritage Sites submitted to UNESCO by the UAE. It qualifies, in part, because of what is described by UNESCO as "its rich environmental biodiversity, as a refuge for sea turtles, birds, coral communities and reef fishes."
It is also recognised under the international Ramsar Convention on wetlands.
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