The Coral Reef
Extensive coral communities in the form of fringing reefs dominate the 7 km long Marine Park coast-line, from the Marine Science Station to the Public Security Officers’ Club. Over 127 species of hard coral have been noted. The distribution of the reefs is discontinuous due to embayments, which are the outlets of dried river beds which form drowned canyons seaward.
The typical reef structure within the park is composed of the reef flat (shallow coral plateau often exposed at low tides), which is often separated from the shore line by a shallow sandy lagoon. The back reef is the back step leading from the shallow lagoon to the reef flat, while the seaward edge of the reef is called the reef crest. The reef face is the steep drop-off from the reef crest on the seaward side. The fore-reef extends from the reef-face and slopes seaward.
Within Jordanian waters 118 genera and 161 species of fish have been noted. A number of mollusks, echinoderms, algae, amphipods and fish are endemic to the Gulf of Aqaba. The shallow reef structures provide habitats for a multitude of reef fish and benthic organisms. Dense reefs are observed to a depth of 70m. While not known for large pelagic fish, the northern tip of the Gulf has seen repeated visits of whale sharks, barracuda, and jacks.
Along the Marine Park shore exist three main types of sea-grass communities in the shallow waters ranging from depths of 0.5m to approximately 40m. These provide habitats for a variety of fish, urchins and invertebrates. The beds expand and contract seasonally providing a constant change in the underwater landscape.
While only a few species such as the urchin Tripneustes gratilla, and the surgeonfish Zebrasoma xanthurum and Ctenochaetus striatus feed directly on the sea-grass this bed of sea-grass provides a habitat to dozens of species of marine animals.
The Inter-tidal Zone
While the tidal range in Aqaba is only about 1 m in height, the inter-tidal area is host to a dense community of invertebrates which dominate the beach areas along the Marine Park. The inter-tidal zone is generally either a sandy area or a solid strata composed of coral reefs.