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Mar Pollut Bull. 2014 Jan 15;78(1-2):96-101. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2013.10.055. Epub 2013 Nov 15.

Shifting environmental baselines in the Red Sea.

Author information

  • 1Environment Department, University of York, York YO10 5DD, UK; School of Life Sciences, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK. Electronic address:
  • 2Presidency of Meteorology & Environment (PME), P.O. Box 1358, Jeddah 21431, Saudi Arabia.
  • 3emapsite, Masdar House, 1 Reading Road, Eversley, Hants RG27 0RP, UK.
  • 4School of Life Sciences, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK.
  • 5HUTA Environmental Works Ltd., P.O. Box 1830, Jeddah 21441, Saudi Arabia.


The Red Sea is among the world's top marine biodiversity hotspots. We re-examined coastal ecosystems at sites surveyed during the 1980s using the same methodology. Coral cover increased significantly towards the north, mirroring the reverse pattern for mangroves and other sedimentary ecosystems. Latitudinal patterns are broadly consistent across both surveys and with results from independent studies. Coral cover showed greatest change, declining significantly from a median score of 4 (1000-9999 m(2)) to 2 (10-99m(2)) per quadrat in 2010/11. This may partly reflect impact from coastal construction, which was evident at 40% of sites and has significantly increased in magnitude over 30 years. Beach oil has significantly declined, but shore debris has increased significantly. Although substantial, levels are lower than at some remote ocean atolls. While earlier reports have suggested that the Red Sea is generally healthy, shifting environmental baselines are evident from the current study.

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Coral reefs; Ecosystem health; Rapid environmental assessment; Red Sea

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