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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - RIYADH: The Saudi National Center for Wildlife has hosted a symposium on the outcomes of the Red Sea Decade Expedition, which led months of research into the habitat’s biodiversity and hidden wonders.
The event, held on Feb. 11-12 in Riyadh, was attended by Abdulrahman Al-Fadhli, the Saudi minister of environment, water and agriculture.
During the two-day seminar, the crew from the international research vessel Ocean Explorer discussed the key findings of their exploration of the Red Sea.
The Red Sea Decade Expedition, involving 126 researchers, was launched last year by the National Center for Wildlife from the Islamic Port of Jeddah. The project conducted a thorough survey of previously unexplored areas, providing invaluable insights into the marine life, biodiversity and environmental characteristics of the Red Sea.
Accompanying the Ocean Explorer on its journey was the national vessel Al-Azizi, in collaboration with institutions such as King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, King Abdulaziz University, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, as well as prominent projects including NEOM, AMAALA and the Red Sea Project.
Lectures at the seminar covered diverse topics such as “Status and Biodiversity of Shallow and Deep Coral Reefs in the Red Sea,” “Exploring Blue Holes in the Farasan Bank,” “Human Waste Assessment on the Seabed in the Eastern Part of the Red Sea,” “Volcanoes and Chimneys in the Deep Part of the Red Sea” and “Shark Species in the Eastern Part of the Red Sea.”
Vincent Pieribone, co-chief executive officer and chief science officer of Ocean X, shared his perspectives during a panel discussion, and was asked about the lessons he had learned from the project.
“One that I can think of, which we should have known before, was the temperature, and how the temperature doesn’t change as you go deep,” he said.
A number of local and international scientists, environmentalists and experts in the field of marine environments, as well as officials from government agencies, attended the event.
The keynote speech was delivered by Carlos Duarte, a professor of marine science at KAUST. Duarte’s insights, coupled with his expertise in marine science and conservation, provided valuable information on the significance of the expedition.
Duarte announced the discovery of numerous blue holes and sub-lagoons, four of which were found to harbor coral walls and unique ecosystems near Jazan. These coral walls present opportunities for conservation.
“These deep-sea coral reefs are unique, because in the global ocean, they grow in very cold waters around 4 to 2 degrees Celsius. But in the Red Sea, the water is very warm all the way to the deepest part of the Red Sea, with the minimum temperatures being 21 degrees Celsius,” said Duarte.
Another surprise finding was DNA results that confirmed the presence of great white sharks in the Red Sea.
In addition, more than five new species-level lineages of dendrophylliidae, three new species-level lineages of agariciidae, and four new records of soft corals were found.
Mohammed Ali Qurban, CEO of the Saudi National Center for Wildlife, highlighted the Kingdom’s dedication to environmental preservation and its pivotal role in supporting global initiatives for environmental development. He underscored the significance of safeguarding the marine environment and its biodiversity.
The symposium organized by the center will contribute to raising awareness about the importance of preserving the Red Sea environment, thereby paving the way for further exploration and understanding of marine life.
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