A Quantitative Remote Sensing-Based Framework for Monitoring Coral Reefs in Extreme Environments

  • Haifa Ben-Romdhane

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Like coral reefs around the world, the reefs of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are facing global climate change and associated threats. The coasts and islands that flank Abu Dhabi host an important number of coral reefs and benthic habitats that should be the focus of conservation actions. Well-designed conservation and management plans require efficient monitoring systems that include mapping the location and extent of the major habitats. Though the level of knowledge about UAE coral reefs is gradually expanding, it is not sufficient. Studies attempting to identify risk factors and virtues of these coral reefs are faced with incomplete, obsolete or inadequate information. The present work attempts to improve the current situation by firstly using advanced spectral-spatial methods to make the best use of the high spatial resolution offered by multispectral remote sensing. Secondly, it studies the change over time among key coral reefs using advanced remote sensing change detection techniques and numerical modelling. Thirdly, statistical analyses are performed using multivariate regression, longitudinal data fixed and random effects models, and ordered logit and probit models. This resulted in the discovery of a continuum of pristine live corals which was not reported previously. This pristine live coral habitat can be considered of regional and international ecological importance as it provides a unique living laboratory for assessing the effects of elevated sea temperatures and climate change on corals. Indeed, UAE corals were found through change detection analysis to be resilient despite exceptional environmental conditions. Management approaches of UAE coral reefs were also revisited in light of international best practices and a set of recommendations for each of the different parties of the institutional framework for UAE coral reefs was presented. This work fills a vacant niche by technically integrating available scientific information on coral bleaching and damage at different space and time scales from the past six years through to future projections. By better evaluating and monitoring the conditions UAE reefs are experiencing, this work is expected to serve as a framework for future investigations that are at the forefront of contemporary coral reef science and management issues.
Date of AwardDec 2016
Original languageAmerican English
SupervisorPrashanth Marpu (Supervisor)


  • Coral reef ecosystems
  • global climate change
  • conservation and management plans
  • multispectral remote sensing
  • UAE.

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