The environmental costs of coastal urbanization in the Arabian Gulf

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Coastal urbanization has expanded rapidly in recent decades in the Arabian Gulf and this has put increasing pressure on important but underappreciated coastal ecosystems throughout the region. Unlike the relatively barren terrestrial system, coastlines in the Gulf contain a mosaic of highly productive ecosystems, including sabkhas, mudflats, mangrove swamps, seagrasses and coral reefs, among others, that provide food and habitat for diverse ecological communities and support over half a billion dollars in fisheries activities annually. In recent years there has been accelerating loss and degradation of each of these systems as a result of cumulative impacts from coastal development, overfishing, industrial expansion and other population-driven stressors, and the Arabian Gulf is now considered among the most degraded marine eco-regions in the world. The future of this unique and valuable system is now at stake, and only with rapid and dramatic changes in coastal policy, regulation and management can we hope to stem the decline of coastal ecosystems in the Gulf. The highly centralized decision-making framework characteristic of governance in this region should be seen as an advantage in this regard. Improved awareness of the economic, societal and ecological value of the coastal ecosystem among leaders could result in rapid changes in policy direction and financial support for coastal management, resulting in more environmentally sustainable urban development on the Gulf's coasts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)760-770
Number of pages11
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2 2014


  • Arabian Gulf
  • Persian Gulf
  • coastal development
  • coastal management
  • coral reef
  • mangrove
  • seagrass

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Urban Studies


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