Recovery of corals a decade after a bleaching event in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

J. Burt, A. Bartholomew, P. Usseglio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Elevated sea surface temperatures in the late 1990s were associated with widespread coral mortality in the Arabian Gulf, particularly in Acropora dominated areas. This study investigates the composition, condition, and recruitment patterns of coral communities in Saih Al-Shaib, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, a decade after mass bleaching. Five statistically distinct communities were identified by cluster analysis, with grouping optimized from 17 significant indicator species. Overall, 25 species of scleractinian coral were observed, representing 35 ± 1.6% coral cover. Densities of recruits were low (0.8 ± 0.2 m-2), and composition generally reflected that of the surrounding adult community. Ten years after mass mortality, Acropora dominated assemblages were observed in three of the six sites examined and coral cover (41.9 ± 2.5%) was double post-bleaching cover. One shallow near-shore site appears to have had recovery of Acropora reset by a further bleaching event in 2002. However, the prevalence of young Acropora colonies here indicates that recovery may recur in several years. One area formerly dominated by Acropora is now dominated by faviids and poritids, with adult and juvenile composition suggesting this dominance shift is likely to persist. Porites lutea and Porites harrisoni dominated communities were negligibly impacted by the bleaching events, and the limited change in coral cover and composition in intervening years likely results from slow growth and low recruitment. Despite strong recovery of several dominant Acropora species, five formerly common species from this area were not observed suggesting local extinction. Dubai coral communities exhibit both resistance and resilience to elevated sea temperatures. The conservation of these patch reefs is warranted given the predicted increase in bleaching events, and the role that these communities may play in regional recovery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-36
Number of pages10
JournalMarine Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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