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  • Publication
    Change detection using remote sensing in a reef environment of the UAE during the extreme event of El Niño 2015–2016
    (2018) ;
    Al-Musallami, Mohamed
    Marpu, Prashanth Reddy
    Ouarda, Taha B. M. J.
    Ghedira, Hosni
    Coral reefs of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are living in the world’s hottest sea. Recently, corals harbouring Symbiodinium thermophilum, a thermotolerant microalgae, were found to be prevalent among UAE reefs and were reported to endure extreme sea-surface temperatures. Late 2015–early 2016 was marked with the strongest El Niño on record worldwide, which caused massive coral bleaching (loss of symbiotic microalgae from reef-building corals). In September 2015, the waters flanking UAE coasts were identified to be among the areas facing a thermal stress reaching its highest level liable to cause massive coral bleaching. However, the effect of this thermal stress on UAE corals remained largely unknown. Here, multi-temporal DubaiSat-2 satellite images were used to show that changes in the reef environment of Dalma Island, UAE, between 2014 and 2016, occurred in macroalgaedominant habitats, whereas live corals remained unaltered. Furthermore, extending the study to a larger area helped in discovering a continuum of live and pristine corals, which was not reported or studied before. While sea-surface temperature anomalies of 1°C were reported to significantly damage coral reefs around the world, the live coral habitat was observed to exhibit no-change despite four consecutive months of +2°C to 3°C anomalies reported during the study period. These findings point to the tolerance of UAE live corals faced with extreme climate conditions
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