Twenty-year changes in coral near Muscat, Oman estimated from manta board tow observations

Steve L. Coles, Elayne Looker, John A. Burt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The coastline of Muscat, Oman, contains some of the most extensive and diverse coral reefs in the northeastern Arabian Peninsula. In the past two decades this region has been impacted by expanding coastal development, the largest cyclone ever recorded in the Arabian Sea, and a large-scale harmful algal bloom which resulted in mass mortality of reefs elsewhere in the Gulf of Oman. In 2012 we estimated live and dead coral using manta tow observations on 370 transects at 13 locations along the coastline and nearshore islands of Muscat Oman. We compared these estimates against observations made on 389 transects at the same 13 locations two decades earlier (1993-94) in order to determine long-term changes in benthos along the Muscat coast. Results were mapped and differences in categorical mean values for transect locations were statistically compared between survey years. Live hard and soft coral decreased over the past two decades at most survey sites, and decreases were significant at three exposed coastline sites and one semi-enclosed embayment. One sheltered embayment site showed a significant increase in live hard coral over the study period. Declines in live hard coral were associated with increases in dead coral framework at 8 of the 13 sites, but these changes were non-significant. We attribute these changes primarily to long-term effects of Cyclone Gonu, which struck the Oman coast in June 2007. The study results suggest that the manta tow method can be an effective way to detect long-term changes in coral and other benthic parameters over large areas, despite limitations on its precision.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)66-73
Number of pages8
JournalMarine Environmental Research
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015


  • Coastal waters
  • Coral
  • Cyclone Gonu
  • Degradation
  • Ecosystem disturbance
  • Manta tows
  • Oman
  • Reefs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Pollution


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