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Temporal variations in coral reef health at a coastal industrial site on the Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea

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A detailed ecological study was conducted for three years (2001-03) on a 5 km stretch of well-developed coral reef facing an industrial site in the southernmost section of the Jordanian coast of the Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea. The degree of modification associated with the prevailing ecological factors was assessed with respect to species diversity and abundance of the major groups of the macrobenthic community: corals, bivalves, hydrozoans, echinoderms, sponges and macroalgae. Three locations of two depths each - 6 and 12 m - were selected and surveyed using the visual census point-intercept method. The actual area of the survey covered about 2250 m2. Macrobenthic communities occurring close to the industrial jetty were characterized by low diversity and the obvious dominance of soft coral (16-30% cover). In the deep transects (12 m) hard coral cover was higher than that in the shallow transects (30-55%). Correlation analyses indicated that species richness increased with increasing distance from the industrial jetty. Species richness of other macrobenthos was also higher as depth increased. The results revealed that the distribution and abundance of coral, echinoderms, hydrozoans and macroalgae were correlated with the relative importance of bottom modification within the various locations in the entire study area. However, no distinct influence of location or depth on the identities of most macrobenthic species was indicated.
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