Seminar Details

Lessons learned from seven years of biogeochemical monitoring in the Eilat Nature Reserve Reef (2000-2007)




Dr. Jack Silverman - Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research, Haifa


During the 1990’s Caged Fish Farming in the Northern Gulf of Eilat emitted Nitrogen and Phosphorous to the surface waters at a peak rate of 250 and 50 tons/yr, respectively. In apparent response the annual average primary production in the surface water increased by a factor of 2-4, deep and shallow water dissolved oxygen inventories decreased substantially, and deep water nutrient inventories increased by as much as 75%. This apparent ongoing eutrophication process became an issue of heated debate amongst local researchers, environmental protection agencies, NGOs and policy makers, especially regarding the potential impacts on nearby coral reefs. While the sporadic benthic community structure surveys carried out in the Nature Reserve Reef since the 1970s indicated that the live coral coverage had declined by nearly 50%, it was impossible to determine if eutrophication was its primary cause and therefore this evidence was considered circumstantial. In an effort to provide additional evidence that fish farming activity was indeed harming Eilat coral reefs, a novel biogeochemical approach was used to develop a monitoring program of the Nature Reserve Reef, which was established within the Framework of the Red Sea Marine Peace Park project (RSMPP) by Profs Yonatan Erez and Boaz Lazar from the Hebrew University with the aid of technicians from the IUI in late 2000. This monitoring approach was later adopted by the Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection and incorporated into the Gulf of Eilat National Monitoring Program, which started in 2003. Sadly this monitoring method was eventually discontinued in July 2007. In my talk I will present the environmental context that led to the development of the monitoring program and how it developed throughout the monitoring period. Then I will explain the basic rational behind the biogeochemical approach, and after, I will present the monitoring data set and the lessons learned from it about the health status of the Nature Reserve Reef in Eilat. Finally, I will discuss the currently developing approach to biogeochemical monitoring in coral reefs around the world that is proposed for monitoring the impact of ocean acidification and global warming on these habitats.

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