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Impact of oil pollution and increased sea surface temperatures on marine ecosystems and biota in the Gulf

  • Friedhelm Krupp
  • Abdulaziz H. Abuzinada

Abstract

Preventing oil pollution is considered the major environmental challenge in the Gulf region. The effects of petroleum oil on key ecosystems and biota are reviewed, mainly based on research activities following the 1991 Gulf War oil spill. While the effects of oiling on birds were severe, with species losing up to an estimated 50% of their populations in the oiled areas, and the breeding success of other species severely reduced for several years following the spill, effects on sea turtles and marine mammals were minor. Planktonic fish eggs and larvae at or near the water surface were killed by oil slicks, resulting in lower levels of recruitment in 1992 and 1993. By 1994, fish population densities were back to pre-war levels. Subtidal biotopes, including coral reefs, escaped oil contamination and showed no adverse impacts from the oil spill. They were, however, severely effected by three major bleaching events in 1996, 1998 and 2002, with most inshore and shallow water offshore corals dying and hardly any signs of recovery until 2007. Thus far oil pollution has been perceived as the greatest single threat to marine ecosystems and wildlife. However, it is argued in this chapter that the long-term impacts of climate change are more severe. The coral bleaching events and the resulting ecological and socio-economic consequences triggered the development of a Regional Action Plan for Coral Reef Conservation, which takes an integrated remediation approach, addressing multiple stressors. It is suggested that this plan be embedded in a broader strategy of regional environmental management, by conducting a Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis and developing a Strategic Action Programme for the Gulf. There is an urgent need to develop national and regional oiled wildlife response plans throughout the Gulf region.

Keywords

Coral Reef Coral Bleaching Arabian Region Reef Fish Assemblage Coral Bleaching Event 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag/Switzerland 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Friedhelm Krupp
    • 1
  • Abdulaziz H. Abuzinada
    • 2
  1. 1.Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History MuseumFrankfurtGermany
  2. 2.Khaled Bin Sultan Living Oceans FoundationRiyadhKingdom of Saudi Arabia

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