Southern Corals Under Threat

Southern Corals Under ThreatSouthern Corals Under Threat

Coral reefs in the Persian Gulf and Oman Sea are on the verge of crossing the ecological threshold, both due to natural and human-caused factors, said a senior environment authority.

Ashrafali Hosseini, the head of Chabahar’s office of the Department of Environment, described the condition of corals in the regional waters as vulnerable, stressing that they need more care, IRNA reported.

Ecological threshold is defined as the point at which a relatively small change or disturbance in external conditions causes a rapid change in the ecosystem. When coral reefs pass the ecological threshold, the ecosystem may no longer be able to return to its state by means of its inherent resilience.

“Coral reefs grow slowly; no more than 12 meters and often much less in 1,000 years. Hence, recovery after a loss will take ages," he said.

Hosseini said oil contamination, development of marine leisure facilities, fishing and coral harvesting, as well as construction activities and sand mining near the coastline are among human factors that threaten the southern coral reefs.

These destructive factors dramatically add to the effects of natural phenomena, such as fluctuations in water temperature and high salinity, which put the corals under more stress.

According to research findings, coral reef communities compete with brown algae, a species that is abundant in the Persian Gulf waters. Although there is little data on the processes and causality of their interactions, observations show that the proximity of two species ends with coral mortality.

Pointing to the wide gamut of corals living in the waters of Iran's southern strip, Hosseini said the species are the main reason behind the region's biodiversity.

According to the official, 28 species of corals have so far been discovered in 8 hectares of Chabahar's coasts, a desirable habitat for the valuable aquatic species.

The official put the value of coral reefs at $47,000 per square meter.

The species is used in bone grafting, drug production, dentistry and ophthalmology, not to mention their ecological role in the sea food-chain and contribution to marine biodiversity.

Coral reefs can protect small islands from water’s corrosive effects and help attract foreign tourists.

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