The role of oceanographic and climate gradients in structuring the Red Sea ecosystem and its vulnerability to change

The role of oceanographic and climate gradients in structuring the Red Sea ecosystem and its vulnerability to change

RSRC aims to achieve its research goal by addressing a number of key questions:

  • What are the consequences of the environmental and oceanographic gradients present in the Red Sea for biodiversity and ecosystem structure and function?

  • Are there anthropogenic drivers superimposed to the N-S oceanographic and environmental gradients in the Red Sea? Can the impacts of anthropogenic (e.g. Climate change, fishing, nutrient inputs, pollutant inputs) and natural drivers (e.g. salinity and temperature gradients) contribute to the gradient be disentangled?

  • How does the oceanographic and environmental gradients affect the resilience of Red Sea habitats to perturbation?, Does the existing gradients provide a proxy (space for time substitution) to anticipate the responses of Red Sea ecosystems, and more broadly tropical marine ecosystems around the globe, to anthropogenic perturbations (e.g. climate change, aquaculture)?

These questions will be addressed through a research program structured around four key collaborative objectives.

  1. Document the oceanographic and environmental gradients in the Red Sea based on existing literature and data and assess priorities in addressing the major gaps identified.

  2. Resolve the dynamics of the oceanographic and environmental gradients in the Red Sea through observations (remote sensing, logging instruments and research cruises).

  3. To experimentally test key hypotheses on the processes, drivers, responses and resilience of biota, ecosystem structure and function to changes in the Red Sea ecosystem derived from global and local anthropogenic forcing.

  4. What environmental pressures drive bleaching of Red Sea corals and what factors determine recovery trajectories?

The central element underpinning this research program is the Red Sea coral reefs, arguably one of the three major coral reef regions in the world's ocean, and unique components that capture much of the biodiversity, interact and shelter the nearshore habitats and support fisheries to the region.  The research effort will concentrate on coastal ecosystems and the benthic and pelagic systems adjacent to these within the Saudi EEZ.  The area of interest includes the strongest environmental and oceanographic gradients present in the Red Sea, as well as the ecosystems supporting much of its biodiversity and services to society, as well as the pelagic productive zone fueling them. How the nearshore and offshore ecosystems interact and support coral reefs will be explicitly addressed in the Center's CCF program.

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