MEPS 287:99-113 (2005)  -  doi:10.3354/meps287099

Spatial and temporal dynamics of Arabian Gulf coral assemblages quantified from remote-sensing and in situ monitoring data

S. J. Purkis1,2,*, B. Riegl1

1National Coral Reef Institute, Nova Southeastern University Oceanographic Center, 8000 Northern Ocean Drive, Dania, Florida 33004, USA
2Institute of Earth and Life Sciences, Vrije Universiteit, De Boelelaan 1085, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands
*Present address: Florida. Email:

ABSTRACT: We analysed spatial patterns of coral communities mapped from IKONOS satellite imagery in combination with 8 yr of traditional ecological monitoring data and archived sea-surface temperature data to explain why coral assemblages in the SE Arabian Gulf (Jebel Ali, Dubai) are impoverished and most do not build reefal frameworks. Analysis of archive sea-surface temperature (SST) data confirmed that the area is subject to recurrent and cyclic temperature anomalies at a frequency which suggests at least a partial link to the El Niño Southern Oscillation via the Indian Ocean Zonal Mode. Classification of high-resolution (4 m pixel-size) IKONOS satellite data gave a large-scale synoptic overview of substrate zonation which, in tandem with a long-term ecological time-series study, allowed us to determine the spatial and temporal dynamics of the coral community. We show that the spatial expression of 4 coral assemblages, as mapped using the IKONOS imagery, is consistent with what would be predicted if reef development was repeatedly ‘reset’ on a decadal time-scale following recurring episodes of coral mass mortality induced by severe SST anomalies. Furthermore, merging the remotely-sensed map of substrate distribution with a detailed bathymetric digital elevation model, revealed no evidence of any significant framework development in the past, suggesting that the cycle of temperature-induced mortality has been operating for some considerable time.


KEY WORDS: Mass mortality · Disturbance · Remote-sensing · Monitoring · Spatial pattern · Coral reef · Arabian Gulf


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