A coral reef refuge in the Red Sea

Authors

  • Maoz Fine,

    Corresponding author
    1. The Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel
    2. The Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences, Eilat, Israel
    • Correspondence: Maoz Fine, tel. +972 8 6360123; fax +972 8 6374329; e-mail: maoz.fine@biu.ac.il

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  • Hezi Gildor,

    1. The Fredy & Nadine Herrmann Institute of Earth Sciences, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel
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  • Amatzia Genin

    1. The Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences, Eilat, Israel
    2. Department of Ecology Evolution & Behavior, Institute of Life Sciences, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel
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Abstract

The stability and persistence of coral reefs in the decades to come is uncertain due to global warming and repeated bleaching events that will lead to reduced resilience of these ecological and socio-economically important ecosystems. Identifying key refugia is potentially important for future conservation actions. We suggest that the Gulf of Aqaba (GoA) (Red Sea) may serve as a reef refugium due to a unique suite of environmental conditions. Our hypothesis is based on experimental detection of an exceptionally high bleaching threshold of northern Red Sea corals and on the potential dispersal of coral planulae larvae through a selective thermal barrier estimated using an ocean model. We propose that millennia of natural selection in the form of a thermal barrier at the southernmost end of the Red Sea have selected coral genotypes that are less susceptible to thermal stress in the northern Red Sea, delaying bleaching events in the GoA by at least a century.

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