Red Sea coral reefs are the northernmost in the Indian Ocean. Most of the Red Sea coast is rimmed by shallow submarine shelves and extensive fringing reef systems, by far the dominant reef type found here.
Red Sea fringing reef platforms are over 5000 years old, and the entire coastal reef complex extends along some 2,000 km (1,240 miles) of shoreline.
Most such reefs grow directly from the shoreline. The dominant, most actively growing corals include most notably highly branched species of the genera Acropora and Porites.
The Red Sea also contains numerous offshore reefs that defy classic reef type categorization.
Included in this catch-all category are atoll-like rings of coral, elongated coral ridges that rise abruptly from considerable depths on both sides, and peculiar complex reef patterns of odd shapes.
Such Red Sea coral reef formations are almost certainly the result of the active and unusual tectonic forces that have been at work here for millennia and continue today.
Characteristics of Red Sea Coral Reefs
The geological history of the Red Sea region is distinctive, and there is only slow and restricted water (and larval) exchange between this sea and the remainder of the Indo-Pacific region as a whole. Thus, Red Sea reefs have developed a number of features that distinguish them from reefs found throughout most of the rest of this vast oceanic area. Particularly important in the light of global warming predictions is the fact that Red Sea corals have developed an unusually high tolerance to the extreme temperatures, salinity, and occasional turbidity (caused by huge seasonal dust storms) that occur in the region. Such conditions that would be lethal or highly damaging to most hard corals found elsewhere.
Also, water clarity is exceptional in the Red Sea because of the lack of river discharge and low rainfall. Thus, Red Sea reefs are not heavily impacted by the suspension and dissipation of fine sediments that plague reefs in tropical oceans near large land masses. Red Sea coral reefs are particularly well developed in the north and central portions (off the coasts of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan), with large sizable offshore reef complexes containing small islands, fringing reefs, and a variety of reef-associated habitats