How monster storms shape fringing reefs: Observations from the 2020 Middle East Cyclone

Shai Oron, Derya Akkaynak, Beverly N. Goodman Tchernov, Yonathan Shaked

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In March 2020, an unusually intense storm system struck the Gulf of Aqaba-Eilat, resulting in severe shoreline damage. This brief account examines post-storm observations of inconsistent damage patterns and structural changes along a specific coastal stretch located at the south beach of Eilat. Certain sections of the coastline experienced direct impact from extreme waves on the south-southeast-facing shallow reef, resulting in areas where rocks were completely stripped of corals due to sediment backwash. Conversely, areas characterized by ridges and deep troughs saw the loss of branching corals and some massive colonies, while many small corals survived. A neighboring area with a well-developed fringing reef suffered lesser damage. Between the severely affected shallow reef and the robust fringing reef lies an unconsolidated slope that migrated eastward by at least 2 m following the storm, incorporating numerous coral colonies dislodged by the event. We propose that this slope advances with each major storm occurrence, influencing the characteristics of nearby shores and coral reefs. This case demonstrates how storm events, in conjunction with geomorphology, have a cumulative and significant impact not only on the structure of coral communities but also on the fundamental shape of coral reefs themselves. As climate change amplifies the range, intensity, and frequency of storms, comprehending these processes becomes increasingly crucial.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere4602
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Ecosphere published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of The Ecological Society of America.


  • climate change
  • coral reefs
  • cyclone
  • disturbance
  • reef development
  • storm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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