Multiple stressor interaction of nutrient enrichment and crude oil pollution on benthic recruitment on a Red Sea coral reef

  • Ann Hulver

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


The Red Sea is one of the warmest, saltiest, and most oligotrophic seas in the world that supports a healthy and extremely diverse coral reef ecosystem. Increasing development along the Saudi Arabian coast may increase eutrophication due to impacts of human population and also oil pollution from increased shipping traffic and refinery activity. The risk of oil pollution combined with increased eutrophication due to coastal development provides a clear stressor interaction which is vastly understudied. Individually, these stressors are known to negatively impact coral reproduction, recruitment, and growth. This study focuses on reef settlement and recovery following experimentally-simulated disturbance scenarios. Carbonate recruitment tiles were placed on the reef and exposed to four treatments: control, nutrient enrichment with slow-release fertilizer, tiles soaked in crude oil, and a combination treatment of nutrient enrichment and oil-coated tiles. At periods of 3, 6, 9, 14, and 17 weeks, tiles were collected to classify the settled community and measure oxygen production. Oil, nitrate, and phosphate were the biggest determining factors predicting settlement and oxygen production of the different treatments. The oil treatment had the least overall settlement and oxygen production, whereas the nutrient treatment had the most turf algal recruitment and oxygen production. The combination treatment had an antagonistic effect on algal growth: the nutrients facilitated growth on the otherwise toxic oiled tiles.
Date of AwardNov 2018
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Biological, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorMichael Berumen (Supervisor)


  • coral reef
  • multiple stressor
  • oil pollution
  • eutrophication
  • Red Sea
  • recruitment

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