Coral reefs are the most diverse and most beautiful of all marine habitats. Simply mentioning coral reefs generally reminds people of a warm climate, colorful fishes and clear waters. However, the reef itself is actually a component of a larger ecosystem. The coral community is a system that includes a collection of biological communities, representing one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. For this reason, coral reefs often are referred to as the "rainforests of the oceans”.Corals occupy less than 0,1% of the world’s ocean surface, yet they provide a home for 25% of all marine species. Healthy reefs can produce up to 35 tons of fish per square kilometer each year, but damaged reefs produce much less.
Coral reefs deliver ecosystem services to tourism, fisheries and coastline protection. The global economic value of coral reefs has been estimated at as much as $US 375 billion per year. Coral reefs protect shorelines by absorbing wave energy, and many small islands would not exist without their reef to protect them. According to the environmental group “World Wide Fund for Nature”, the economic cost over a 25 year period of destroying one kilometer of coral reef is somewhere between $ 137,000 and $ 1,200,000. About 6 million tons of fish are taken from coral reefs each year. Well managed coral reefs have an annual yield of 15 tons of seafood on average per square kilometer. Southeast Asia's coral reef fisheries alone yield about $ 2.4 billion from seafood annually.
Although it is well-known that the Egyptian Red Sea coast is of high value from economical and ecological point of views, there was no quantitative survey performed on its resources in term of habitats and key species until the launch HEPCA’s Coastal Survey Project.
In 2010 HEPCA initiated the Coastal Survey Project (CSP) in order to perform the first quantitative survey of our natural resource in the Red Sea, especially coral reefs. The main aim of the project is to determine the most sensitive habitats and collect data on what resources we have in Egypt as a first step for conserving them. Moreover, the project is also collecting data on the threats and human impacts on our precious resources and developing management plans and solutions for decision makers in order to protect and conserve these resources.
There are two types of stresses associated with reef systems: natural and human-induced. The effects of these stresses can range from negligible to catastrophic. Reefs display a surprising adaptation to short-term natural catastrophic events, such as hurricanes, and usually recover to normal community structure. The natural stresses include: global warming, coral bleaching, crown of thorns (COT), floods and ocean acidification. On the other hand the human impacts and stresses on coral reefs are far more catastrophic and long-lasting in their effects: coral damage from divers and snorkelers, anchoring, reef filling,sedimentation and destruction of natural habitats for tourism development are all examples of how humans can damage the marine resources. The CSP team is collecting data on both sources of impacts in order to stop them or at least to bring them into the spotlight.
- Demarcation of sensitive habitats
- Creation of sensitivity maps
- Collection of data on diversity, abundance and status of corals, coral reef fishes and exploited species
- Gathering data on resilience of different coral reefs
- Establishment of database and creation of monitoring sites based on photo-quadrates and video transect.
- Collecting data on human impacts on marine natural resources
- Developing sustainable management plans for the commercial reef fishes.