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Biologists dive for secrets of coral reef that survives hot Gulf waters

Coral reefs are sensitive ecosystems that rarely survive sea temperatures above 32 degrees Celsius, yet coral reef fauna thrives in the Persian Gulf, where scientists hope to find clues about climate change survival.
A diver inspects transplanted coral near Dibba Port in Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, June 15, 2020. Picture taken June 15, 2020. REUTERS/Christopher Pike - RC2MBH9IA8NL

A thunderstorm is growling in the distance while marine biologists Matt Mitchell and Noura al-Mansoori help Dain McParland, the captain, to load a boat with diving gear. December is around the corner and Abu Dhabi is experiencing one of its rare rainy days. The crew knows that it will have to complete its mission quickly. Mansoori, one of the few female Emiratis in the discipline, carries with her a hammer to retrieve cubes of dead coral that she had placed underwater months before. Mitchell, a jovial British citizen, wants to place sensors to collect information on marine sediments.

The 10-meter Arabian Craft soon leaves its mooring in a small harbor nestled between the presidential palace and the seven-star hotel Emirates Palace. The boat speeds to its destination. Al-Dhabiya, west of the UAE capital, is one of the biologists’ main research sites. The patchy coral reef is close to the shore in a protected marine area where fishing is not allowed. While the reef has a lower biodiversity and less coral cover than other iconic spots in Indonesia or Australia, its ability to endure extreme weather conditions makes it exceptional.

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