Saudi Arabia to Host One of The Largest Coral Restoration Projects

Saudi Arabia to Host One of The Largest Coral Restoration Projects

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology is launching approaches to support and restore coral reefs

Extraordinary circumstances often call for extraordinary actions. As climate change accelerates and ecosystems are impacted in dire and unpredictable ways, scientists, policy makers and experts from wide-ranging fields are necessarily rethinking response strategies.

Bold models are needed that address the urgency of climate change with timely, adaptive and visionary approaches.

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), a world-class graduate research university on the Red Sea north of Jeddah, is launching such approaches to support and restore coral reefs at a time of unprecedented environmental change.

The KAUST Reefscape Restoration Initiative at Shushah Island is one of the world’s first large-scale coral reef restoration projects, administered and funded by KAUST in partnership with NEOM.

The combined research expertise and technical infrastructure of the two entities provide the traction needed to advance coral restoration at significant scales.

KAUST Student Wins Global Contest for Sustainability-Themed Project

KAUST President Tony Chan said: “We are in a race against time to save coral reefs, which are arguably amongst the most valuable ecosystems on the planet.

"Coral reefs throughout the world are in crisis, and KAUST has joined hands with NEOM and global partners to deploy our best science and technology solutions for coral reef regeneration, and demonstrate that at Shushah.”

The genesis of the project began with KAUST’s Coral Hub, a team of faculty and researchers working to develop new approaches to coral reef restoration.

What started with an already ambitious plan for Shushah Island has now grown to be the foundation of a larger initiative that will likely support restoration throughout the region for decades to come.

The initiative is designed to be a demonstration of innovative coral restoration technologies and approaches that can be applied in the Red Sea and to other coral reef systems around the world.

The project involves growing hundreds of thousands of corals in nurseries to be planted first across a 100-hectare pilot site located in the Red Sea east of Shushah Island, approximately 20 kilometers from NEOM in the Tabuk province of Saudi Arabia.

The work underscores the Kingdom’s commitment to study and protect corals and coral reefs in the region and beyond. It will also include a research and ecotourism center to further knowledge about coral reef ecosystems and the biodiversity of species they support.

NEOM CEO, Nadhmi Al Nasr said: "We are delighted to partner with KAUST on this pioneering coral reef restoration program off the coast of NEOM.

"NEOM's Red Sea coral reef ecosystem may hold the secret to the future of coral reefs around the world that are experiencing extreme temperature changes due to global climate change.

"The program is key to our efforts to rewild, reforest and preserve NEOM and reflects our commitment to protecting our rich marine ecosystems and our efforts to pioneer the future of conservation."

An educational center for future generations

Once the project is underway and flourishing, a visitor center and research facility will be created to provide ongoing educational and exchange opportunities for scientists, students and tourists alike, and enhance accessibility throughout the Kingdom and world.

The visitor center will feature educational, interactive exhibits to raise awareness about marine environments, including visual displays that Moore said will be a “digital twin” of the underwater restoration experience.

The research facility will be a state-of-the-art outpost for NEOM researchers, KAUST researchers and scientists-in-residence to study the coral reefscape there and in nearby regions.

Read More: Hosting A Global Initiative to Save Corals

Sustainability Middle East News