Page 03/09/2015 16:01:11

Ecological Assessment of the Red Sea Ecosystem


Ecological assessment is envisioned as an integrated observing system that provides thresholds levels to be used for monitoring the potential impacts (both natural and anthropogenic) within the Red Sea. By integrating information of different biological components both at the pelagic and benthic domains gathered under real environmental conditions, thresholds are expected not only to be realistic but also comprehensive of the whole ecosystem. 

The ecological assessment effort will provide baseline data regarding the biodiversity patterns of the Red Sea ecosystem, aiming to identify habitats that are unique, valuable, and sensitive to environmental pressures. The team at KAUST, led by Dr. Susana Carvalho, will use international methods and standards of assessment.


By combining different disciplines (ecology, chemistry, oceanography, physics) and looking at different biological components of the system (e.g. plankton, benthic fauna, and reef fishes) the aim is to contribute to a more comprehensive knowledge of the Red Sea.


For example, apart from the standard methodologies to assess coral reefs (i.e. photo-transects to identify corals and other benthic fauna and fish censuses) KAUST is also monitoring the biodiversity of coral reef systems using Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS). These structures mimic the complexity of the reef systems and target a biological component overlooked during regular reef surveys (i.e. small organism, like crabs, shrimps, and sea snails). Connected to a European wide initiative (DEVOTES) and in partnership with the Smithsonian Institute, data collected from ARMS in the Red Sea will expand the database of marine organisms found here.

As one of many tools employed, ARMS are an example of a method for facilitating new biodiversity knowledge of the Red Sea.

A recently placed ARMS structure in the Red Sea.


Professor Xabier Irigoien, Director of the Red Sea Research Center, KAUST

Professor Michael Beruman leads the Reef Ecology Lab at KAUST

Professor Christian Voolstra leads the Reef Genomics Lab at KAUST

Coastal and Marine Resources Core Lab, KAUST

Analytical Core Lab, KAUST

Visualization Core Lab, KAUST

DEVOTES Project​, European Union

Nancy Knowlton, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.

Matthieu Leray, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.