Artificial reefs: enhancing biodiversity in the Arabian Gulf
Coral reefs are invaluable sources of ecological and economic richness. These ecosystems serve as nurseries for numerous marine species and act as natural barriers against coastal erosion.
Various kinds of disturbances, both natural and human induced, have impacted coral reefs worldwide leading to their overall degradation and loss, and the Arabian Gulf is no exception.
Currently, most of the coral reefs in the Arabian Gulf are under risk of disappearance due to a combination of climate change factors and human activities such as fishing, dredging and marine pollution.
Saudi Aramco has been actively promoting the growth of marine life with both planned and unplanned artificial reefs. In addition to the offshore oil and gas facilities that act as artificial reefs by providing substrate for the development of marine communities, we have advanced our approach by creating permanent, stable and long-lived artificial reef structures throughout the Arabian Gulf.
Currently, we have an initiative underway to install planned artificial reefs in various strategic locations. The first reefs were deployed at 25 sites in September 2015.
Seasonal monitoring of the 25 artificial reefs examined productivity, species biodiversity and fish numbers. The results indicated that the central part of the Arabian Gulf — specifically the region of Manifa, Abu Ali, Jubail and Ras Tanura — was the area with the highest abundance of reef fish, the highest biodiversity of reef organisms, and was the most productive in terms of overall biomass.
The next phase in this project will deploy additional mega-artificial reef arrays at nine ideal sites in the Arabian Gulf. The reefs will create new productive habitats, enhancing the Arabian Gulf’s fisheries resources and offshore biodiversity while also providing resilience to impact from climate change.