18 April, 2021Corals go hungry long before they bleach
The results of coral beaching are obvious — stark underwater forests of white coral skeletons — yet the physiological processes of bleaching are not well understood. Now, KAUST researchers show that, long before signs of bleaching appear, prolonged spells of warm water cause heat stress that disrupts the nutrient cycling of the coral and its symbiotic algae.
14 April, 2021Lockdowns unlock ecology research potential
When most of the world went into lockdown to limit the spread of COVID-19, ecologists realized that these tragic circumstances presented a unique opportunity to study how the presence, or absence, of humans affects biodiversity.
The freedom to travel and transport goods by land, air or sea has underpinned social and economic progress yet has been costly to the natural world, destroying habitats and contributing to climate change. In April 2020, an estimated 4.4 billion people experienced a full or partial national lockdown, compelled to severely limit their movements. And the natural world expanded its reach.
06 April, 2021Human activities sound an alarm for sea life
Humans have altered the ocean soundscape by drowning out natural noises relied upon by many marine animals, from shrimp to sharks.
Sound travels fast and far in water, and sea creatures use sound to communicate, navigate, hunt, hide and mate. Since the industrial revolution, humans have introduced their own underwater cacophony from shipping vessels, seismic surveys searching for oil and gas, sonar mapping of the ocean floor, coastal construction and wind farms. Global warming could further alter the ocean soundscape as the melting Arctic opens up more shipping routes and wind and rainfall patterns change.
30 March, 2021Prof. Duarte named Extreme E scientific committee member
Extreme E has expanded its Scientific Committee with the appointment of KAUST Distinguished Professor of Marine Science Carlos Duarte, one of the world's leading minds on marine ecosystems. His appointment comes in advance of Extreme E's opening race in Saudi Arabia as the series strengthens its commitment to raise awareness for the climate issues facing the locations in which it races.
09 March, 2021Working towards a safer future for our oceans
The ocean’s stable health is an important component that upholds the climate’s behavior and life on Earth. A key indicator of that health? Coral reefs, also known as the marine "canaries in the coal mine." Coral bleaching due to climate change is a major concern among ocean researchers. Record ocean temperatures during 2014-2017 triggered a mass bleaching event around the globe, a sign that this issue is becoming more dire.
04 March, 2021A milestone in Saudi scientific diving
The development of a highly skilled workforce—a crucial part of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030—recently took a new step forward through the country's first in-Kingdom international scientific research diver certification of a Saudi.
Diver Saeed Amin, who is a KAUST marine science Ph.D. student from the Biological Oceanography Lab in the University's Red Sea Research Center, completed and passed the rigorous American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS)-accredited KAUST Scientific Research Diver Certification in November 2020.
23 February, 2021Microbiome boost may help corals resist bleaching
A simple but powerful idea is to improve the health of corals using cocktails of beneficial bacteria. The strategy is being explored as part of global scientific efforts to help corals become stronger, more stress resistant and more likely to survive bleaching events associated with climate change. Corals rely on bacterial and algal symbionts to provide nutrients, energy (through photosynthesis), toxin regulation and protection against pathogenic attacks.
06 January, 2021Kelp help: seeking options for blue carbon
“Conserving the world's oceans and coastal ecosystems is a no-regrets strategy posing huge benefits for people and planet,” explains Carlos Duarte, KAUST’s leading marine ecologist. For three decades, Duarte has led research into “blue carbon” ecosystems that can help both mitigation and adaptation to climate change and that include coasts, sandy beaches, mangroves, kelp forests, salt marshes and seagrasses.
17 December, 2020Research links reef resiliency to no-take zones, healthy fish populations
In the first study of its kind, A connectivity portfolio effect stabilizes marine reserve performance demonstrates that a network of no-take zones ensures a consistent supply of replenished fish stocks across marine reserve habitats. No-take zones are marine protected areas (MPAs) where fishing activities are not allowed in order to preserve biodiversity.
13 December, 2020Mangroves lock away carbon
High levels of dissolved calcium carbonate present in their bedrock indicate that Red Sea mangroves are capable of removing more carbon than previously thought, KAUST researchers have found. The study's findings highlight the need to consider calcium carbonate dissolution in mangroves growing on carbonate platforms as an important carbon storage mechanism.
03 December, 2020Red Sea turtle hatchlings are feeling the heat
Analyses by KAUST researchers of sand temperatures at marine turtle nesting sites around the Red Sea indicate that turtle hatchlings born in the region could now be predominantly female. These findings hold significant implications for the survival of marine turtle species as temperature increases take hold, driven by anthropogenic climate change.
01 December, 2020Carlos M. Duarte named KAUST Distinguished Professor
We are delighted to announce the appointment of Professor Carlos M. Duarte as a KAUST Distinguished Professor effective December 1, 2020.
29 November, 2020Robot probes the Red Sea's carbon storage system
Warming waters and oxygen depletion in the Red Sea could slow the flow of organic carbon from the surface into the deep ocean where it can be stored, out of reach of the atmosphere. A KAUST team has used an underwater robot to investigate the little-studied mesopelagic, or "twilight," zone, at depths of between 100 and 1000 meters.
26 November, 2020RSRC alumnus makes impact with coral reef research
Sclerochronology is not a word the average person hears every day, let alone understands, but for RSRC alumnus and marine biologist Dr. Thomas DeCarlo, the word is at the core of his work. Literally. Sclerochronology is the study of the hard tissues and skeletons of invertebrates, and in DeCarlo's case, long-lived, tropical corals. He drills, dates and analyzes cored samples from corals to learn how they grow and also respond to ocean warming and acidification. Sclerochronology is one tool in a suite of research techniques that DeCarlo applies to his projects. Carbonate geochemistry, Raman spectroscopy, paleoceanography and remote sensing are others.
15 November, 2020Research reveals ocean plastics collecting point
Global plastic production began to rise precipitously around 1950. Since that time production has grown at around 8.5% annually. Unfortunately, due to poor recapture and recycling globally, much of that plastic has ended up in the world's oceans.
05 November, 2020Blue carbon—harbingers of hope
Perched on a branch among dense green foliage, a Mangrove reed warbler is nearly hidden from view but for its call, which reveals its location from among the mangroves. Another reed warbler answers the call, and birdsong animates the trees. The mangroves at KAUST are thriving.
14 October, 2020How planting 70 million eelgrass seeds led to an ecosystem’s rapid recovery
In the world’s largest seagrass restoration project, scientists have observed an ecosystem from birth to full flowering. As part of a 20-plus-years project, researchers and volunteers spread more than 70 million eelgrass seeds over plots covering more than 200 hectares, just beyond the wide expanses of salt marsh off the southern end of Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
14 October, 2020Triggerfish learns to catch more diverse food
Any Red Sea diver will have encountered colorful triggerfish along coral reefs, and some divers will have experienced the painful bite of their huge teeth if they get too close to their nesting grounds. Now, Ph.D. student Matthew Tietbohl and colleagues at KAUST report a peculiar feeding strategy by a titan triggerfish that highlights their innate ability to learn and adapt.
08 October, 2020Global census reveals reef shark status, need for improved conservation management
In the 1940s global audiences watched spellbound upon seeing first-time film footage of marine life by Jacques-Yves Cousteau, famed French naval officer, underwater filmmaker, and inventor of scuba gear. Cousteau's ocean scenes brought the mysteries of the deep to the public eye, and in so doing, increased knowledge of marine species and habitats, and transformed the field of marine conservation.