Corals

Overview

  • The abiotic conditions in the central Red Sea are optimal for coral growth and reef development. Perhaps due to these optimal conditions, the number of coral species observed in the Sudanese Red Sea is greater than that for either the northern or the southern Red Sea.
  • The hard and soft coral fauna at Sanganeb Atoll and Sha’ab Rumi are therefore likely to be amongst the richest in the Red Sea.
  • A total of 124 cnidarian species, including scleractinians, have been recorded at SMNP.
  • Coral cover is dominated by massive and encrusting growth forms, particularly colonies of Porites, Goniastrea and Montipora

Coral Predators

  • Outbreaks of Crown of Thorns Starfish (COTS, Acanthaster planci) occurred in Sudan in the 1980’s and can cause severe damage to coral reefs. While occasional outbreaks are probably a natural occurrence, it is important that they are controlled in areas where the reefs have a direct commercial value e.g. dive sites. The last studies indicated that COTS are presently at normal background population densities.
  • Other feeding scars were also observed on coral colonies, particularly between the south-west headland and the Lighthouse. The most likely cause is Drupella, a corallivorous gastropod that can cause widespread damage to corals.

State of reefs and corals

  • The reefs at SMNP are still in a very good condition, a rare example which have high species richness with a large number of flagship species (e.g. large fish and sharks). They are not immediately threatened by human activity because there is no resident population and it is not an important traditional fishing ground. They are largely unaffected by pollution or depletion by collecting. But there are signs of coral die-off, generally attributed to sedimentation and water temperature.
  • European divers frequently visit the atoll on organized tours, particularly from October to May; their impact on corals is low with the exception of boat anchorage. The Regional Organization for the Conservation of the Environment of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden (PERSGA) is planning to assist Sudan in deploying mooring buoys at specific sites in Sanganeb Atoll.

Source: Mergner & Schumacher 1985; PERSGA (2004).

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