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Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Research project: Understanding the exceptional heat tolerance of reef corals from the Persian/Arabian Gulf

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We are exploring the physiological basis for the stress resilience of the Gulf corals and test our hypothesis that the unique physicochemical environment of the Gulf promotes the thermotolerance of corals.

This Acropora and numerous other coral species from the Gulf survive in the hottest waters of the world. Image credit: J. Wiedenmann


Over the past decades, mass bleaching events caused primarily by elevated seawater temperatures have become more frequent and contribute significantly to the observed degradation of coral reefs. In the Persian/Arabian Gulf (“the Gulf”) corals are exposed to elevated salinity levels and unusual nutrient concentrations. At the same time, they endure extreme temperature maxima that would kill corals elsewhere on the planet. Hence, they represent ideal models to study the basis of heat stress tolerance and contribute essential information required to forecast the fate of coral reefs in the warmer oceans of the future.

In this project, we are exploring the physiological basis for the stress resilience of the Gulf corals using a range of -omic techniques.

The outcomes of the proposed research will facilitate the prediction of the adaptability of reef corals to global warming. In particular, the results of the study will underline the importance of the Persian/Arabian Gulf coral communities as unique examples of stress resilient corals, making a strong case in support of their rigorous conservation.

The key activity to increase the impact of the proposed study is the establishment of the Mideast Coral Reef Society ( with the aim to improve the knowledge exchange between representatives of academia, industry/private sector, governmental and non-governmental organisations.

Call details: NERC STANDARD GRANT 2012
Funding: £471,000
Duration: 36 months

Key Contacts

Prof. Jörg Wiedenmann

Related pages

The Coral Reef Laboratory


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