Red Sea epidemic kills off sea urchins, experts voice concern

red sea
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AMMAN — A research team has recently found that an epidemic in the Red Sea spread and wiped out an entire species of sea urchins in the Gulf of Aqaba, an endangerment to the region’s unique coral reefs. اضافة اعلان

According to a research team from Tel Aviv University, the Black Sea Urchins were completely exterminated two months after the epidemic began, a species known to help maintain the health of coral reefs.

In its findings published in two scientific journals, the epidemic is also spreading to other countries in the region in addition to Jordan, which include Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.

Here is what experts told Jordan News:

A carpet parasiteResearchers believe that the cause of epidemic is due to the carpet parasite, which causes disease to marine life and its rapid death. This same cause could be linked to the deaths of sea urchins in the Caribbean Sea as well.

Dr Ali Al-Sawalmih, director of the Marine Science Station in Aqaba, told Jordan News that studies have documented the death of large quantities of sea urchins in the Aqaba Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea due to a bacterial infection transmitted through sea currents and fish that feed on them.

He explained this phenomenon occurs only in oceans with a similar reoccurrence in the 1980s.

He stressed that the current study conducted about the disappearance of sea urchins, has consequences for the marine environment system as sea urchins help balance the balance the system.

The imbalance could lead to an increase in algae growth, a decrease in the components of coral reefs, a decrease in their regeneration, and an impact on the nutrient cycle in the sea.

Studies still underway
Deputy Chief Commissioner of Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority Hamzeh Al-Hajj Hassan told Jordan News that the authority is conducting studies and research with experts in Aqaba to understand and study this phenomenon.

He confirmed that he personally dove recently and noticed that urchins began to breed, “a symbol of hope in regenerating the marine life population”.

The importance of sea urchins
Dean of the College of Marine Sciences, Dr Mohammad Al-Zibdah, told Jordan News that this particular species of sea urchin, feeds on large algae, so “its disappearance may lead to an increase in algae and thus prevent corals from reproducing due to competition for space”.

He added that the urchins remove the algae that stick to the coral larvae and to the stony substrates at the bottom.

Also, the presence of algae when the urchins are absent may lead to the erosion of coral structures and thus become weak and may die.

He added that the measures to be taken to preserve urchins are through the work of proactive monitoring programs to search for the presence of influences that may harm the presence of these creatures, such as searching for diseases, one of them being bio restoration.

In order to move forward with a solution, “it would require cooperation between stakeholders, research, administrators, and the local community to prevent these epidemics in the future”.

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