Red Sea expedition in Saudi Arabia’s NEOM reveals new species

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A six-week Red Sea expedition in Saudi Arabia’s NEOM generated scientific research into marine ecosystems, megafauna, brine pools and coral reef conservation and regeneration, and revealed new species, according to a Wednesday press release.

The expedition, a joint mission between NEOM Co and OceanX, a non-profit ocean exploration organization, took place aboard the OceanXplorer, the most advanced exploration, research and media vessel ever built, the release said.

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“NEOM goes beyond just being a global destination for investment, technology, tourism, or industrial and commercial sectors, by partnering with scientists, and international scientific and academic institutions for research and exploration,” the CEO of NEOM, Nadhmi al-Nasr, said.

“Today, we announce that the joint mission efforts have made significant achievements in the identification of previously unknown natural areas, as well as unprecedented global scientific discoveries,” he added.

He said NEOM was an ideal location for the expedition, as it meets all the key objectives of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, which includes sustainability and the balance between urban development and environmental preservation.

The expedition’s findings have established a baseline measure of biodiversity and habitat vitality that will allow NEOM to pursue its goal of both conserving and improving the health of surrounding ecosystems, the press release said.

The findings were captured over 960 hours of underwater research and mapping over 1,500km2 of the seabed in high resolution 3D.

According to the press release, some the key findings include:

• Discovery of an ocean pinnacle 635m high.
• Discovery of the world’s most northern deep sea brine pool, which are dense bodies of water that have a salinity that is three to eight times greater than the surrounding ocean.
• Recording coral reefs that are resilient to climate change.
• Identification of 341 fish species in the waters of NEOM, 68 that are native to the region and 18 that are globally threatened.
• Eight new species were recorded and over 600 square kilometers of biodiversity hotspots for fishes and corals discovered.
• Confirmed presence of 12 species of megafauna in NEOM waters including whale sharks, dugong, turtles and dolphins.
• Previously unrecorded tectonic plate shifts.

“The global ocean system is in crisis, but the damage is reversible. This partnership with OceanX reinforces NEOM’s commitment to science, conservation and safeguarding the planet,” the Head of Nature Reserve at NEOM, Paul Marshall, said.

“We believe that not only conserving, but improving, the health of our marine ecosystems, particularly our coral reefs, are key to our future and our success,” he added.

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