Rainforests in the Red Sea

Looking down from the International Space Station (ISS), an astronaut captured this view of Saudi Arabia’s northwest coast, where up to 260 species of coral reefs thrive. The warm, salty waters off the coast of the Arabian peninsula create an optimal environment for the growth of coral reefs, especially in shallow lakes where the shore meets the Red Sea. The water moves from clear turquoise in the lakes to deep blue as depth increases.

There are marginal reefs, which start at the shore and grow towards the sea, on the northwestern Saudi Arabian coast. The biodiversity of coral reefs increases to the south, where patch and barrier reefs combine with peripheral reefs to form rich ecosystems. Coral reefs have been described as “seawater forests” for their biodiversity and functionality in nature – providing a source of food for marine life and others, while protecting coastlines.

With the growing human population on the Arabian peninsula, there is a growing demand for freshwater supply. That demand is often fulfilled by the use of deciduous plants. Currently, the country is home to the world’s largest dewatering plants, which produce freshwater and sesame, a byproduct of saltwater wastewater. Some salts flow back into the Red Sea and can reduce the diffused oxygen in aquatic ecosystems. This is called hypoxia, and can pose a threat to coral reef ecosystems and biodiversity in the Red Sea.

The Astronaut ISS064-E-6296 was photographed on November 26, 2020, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 400 millimeter lens and is supplied by the ISS Crew Earth Observation Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Space Center Johnson. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 64 team. The image was cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens materials were removed. The International Space Station Program is supporting the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts photograph the Earth that will be of greatest value to scientists and the public, and to Make these images freely available on the internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA / JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by Amber Turner, Jacobs, NASA-JSC JETS Contract.