Scientists Call for Protection of Egypt’s Reefs
An international group of marine scientists led by Karine Kleinhaus, of Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS), has published a letter in Science, coinciding with COP27, that is a call to action for policymakers, government agencies and ocean conservation groups to take major steps to preserve Egypt’s 1,800 km of coral reefs–a massive section of the Red Sea’s reef system.
Egypt’s reefs generate billions of dollars annually from tourism and tourism-related commerce. Egypt’s coral reef tourism economy contributes to 2 percent of GDP.
The reefs of the northern Red Sea are especially valuable as they constitute one of the world’s few marine refuges from climate change. Almost the entire western coastline of this refuge lies within Egypt. Although these reefs can tolerate the rising sea temperatures that are decimating reefs elsewhere, they face severe local threats, including unsustainable tourism and fishing, coastal development, sewage discharge and desalination plant discharge. Local threat reduction and sustainable management of these reefs is needed to maintain their value.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that 70 to 90 percent of warm-water reefs will disappear this century even if warming is constrained to 1.5° C. But the corals of the northern Red Sea are thermally resilient and likely to survive IPCC warming predictions. The reefs could benefit from an expanded and fortified marine protected area network.
The authors believe the time is now to preserve Egypt’s coral reefs, and they believe a committed international coalition can “advance a shared commitment to conserve one of the few coral reef refuges from climate change.”