Al Wadj Bank, Saudi Arabia (NASA, International Space Station Science, 12/30/07)
Al Wadj Bank, Saudi Arabia is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 16 crewmember on the International Space Station. Saudi Arabia boasts the most coral reefs of any Middle Eastern country, as it includes coastline along both the Red Sea and Gulf of Arabia. This high resolution image depicts a portion of the Al Wadj Bank, located along the northern Red Sea coast. Despite the relatively high salinity of Red Sea water (compared to other oceans), approximately 260 species of coral are found here, according to scientists. Large tracts of the Saudi Arabian coastline are undeveloped, and reefs in these areas are in generally good ecological health. However, reefs located near large urban centers like Jeddeh have suffered degradation due to land reclamation, pollution, and increased terrigeneous sediment input. The Al Wadj Bank includes a healthy and diverse reef system, extensive seagrass beds, and perhaps the largest population of dugong -- a marine mammal similar to the North American manatee -- in the eastern Red Sea. The portion of the Bank in this image illustrates the complex form and topography of the reef system. Several emergent islands (tan) - surrounded primarily by dark green seagrass - are visible, the largest located at top left. Only the islands are above the waterline -- over the reef structures the water color ranges from light teal (shallow) to turquoise (increasing depth). The southern edge of the reef is well indicated by the deep, dark blue water of the Red Sea at image top.
Image credit: NASA
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