The Red Sea: Israel

  • Gal EyalEmail author
  • Raz Tamir
  • Netanel Kramer
  • Lee Eyal-Shaham
  • Yossi Loya
Part of the Coral Reefs of the World book series (CORW, volume 12)


The mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCEs) of Eilat, in the Northern Red Sea, are among the best-studied worldwide, as demonstrated by the high number of publications from the region. Nonetheless, Eilat’s MCEs remain relatively unexplored compared to its shallow reefs. Its MCEs host diverse benthic communities that are potentially linked ecologically to shallow reefs. Here, we summarize the history of MCE research and compare the shallow and mesophotic reefs using long-term biotic and abiotic data. Eilat’s MCEs exhibit lower fluctuations in temperature, light, sedimentation, and a decreased frequency of shore-related disturbances than adjacent shallow reefs, supporting the hypothesis that key environmental parameters become more stable with increasing depth. However, nutrient concentrations are more variable in MCEs than nearby shallow reefs. We provide a novel definition of the upper (30–80 m) and lower (80–160 m) mesophotic zone boundaries in Eilat, based on the degree of light penetration, as well as the relative abundance of major fauna and flora. Scleractinian coral diversity increases with depth, as well as the abundance of specialist taxa. Corals (93 spp.) comprise the major organisms contributing to living benthic cover. A mass coral-bleaching event took place in 2015 that exclusively affected MCEs, and we discuss the event’s potential mechanisms and consequences for shallow vs. mesophotic coral assemblages. Protection and regulations of MCEs are needed to maintain and support these unique ecosystems.


Mesophotic coral ecosystems Gulf of Eilat/Aqaba Biodiversity Light Deep-water bleaching 



We thank the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences (IUI) in Eilat for making their facilities available to us. We are grateful to N. Paz for editing the manuscript, Y. Shaked and O. Ben-Shaprut for diving assistance, and all of YL’s lab members for their support. We thank T. Bridge, E. Brokovich, J. Turner, and an anonymous reviewer for their useful comments on an earlier version of this chapter. GE was supported by the Israel Taxonomy Initiative (ITI) and Sciences-Based Management (SBM) Doctoral Fellowships. This research was funded by the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) Grants No. 341/12 and 1191/16 to YL.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gal Eyal
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Raz Tamir
    • 1
    • 2
  • Netanel Kramer
    • 1
  • Lee Eyal-Shaham
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yossi Loya
    • 4
  1. 1.George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, School of ZoologyTel Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael
  2. 2.The Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences in EilatEilatIsrael
  3. 3.The Steinhardt Museum of Natural HistoryIsrael National Center for Biodiversity StudiesTel AvivIsrael
  4. 4.George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, School of ZoologyTel Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael

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