Long-Term Loss of Coral Reef in the Gulf of Aqaba Estimated from Historical Aerial Images

Elad Topel, Yoav Lehahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Located at the northern tip of the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aqaba coral reef is highly susceptible to anthropogenic pressure associated with the massive development of the two neighboring cities of Eilat and Aqaba. Over the years, the reef has been extensively studied in a number of research and monitoring programs, which provide detailed information on a variety of ecological, physiological, biogeochemical and physical variables. Due to the local nature of these surveys, although the state of the reef at specific times and locations is very well characterized, long-term changes in the spatial characteristics of the reef as a whole have not yet been quantified. Here, through analysis of historical aerial images, we address one of the most important aspects of this knowledge gap and quantify the decrease in coral reef coverage, with respect to a baseline level prior to the establishment of the City of Eilat in 1949. Our results show that along a 8460 m segment of the shoreline at the northwestern edge of the GOA (29°29′–30°N/34°54′–35°E), infrastructure construction has led to the loss of more than 4810 m2 of coral reef. This loss has been caused either directly by the construction (most importantly the Eilat Port) or indirectly by changing environmental conditions, which in turn damage the reef. Our results show that historical aerial images can provide a unique source of information on the spatial characteristics of marine and coastal systems prior to the era of Earth observation satellites.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6305
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors.


  • Gulf of Aqaba
  • coastal infrastructures
  • coral reef
  • historical aerial images
  • long term monitoring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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