Intan Suci Nurhati, Ph.D.     
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Coral  Records of Marine Environmental History in the Northern Arabian-Persian Gulf

PI: Ed Boyle (MIT), Intan Suci Nurhati (SMART), Gonzalo Carrasco (MIT), Gevao Bondi (KISR) and Ning Zhao (MIT)


   Increasingly pervasive anthropogenic imprints on the oceans since the industrial age may manifest as changes in marine chemistry and climate systems. How has marine environmental chemistry changed with respect to local effluent and distal transport of anthropogenic pollutions such as heavy metals? What are the manifestations of anthropogenic climate change on the regional scale that would help societies formulate effective climate change adaptation strategies? A particular concern to the arid Arabian-Persian Gulf region is how the global hydrological cycle and the frequency of extreme summer weather events may change under the warming climate.

   Given the sparse availability of continuous decades-long marine instrumental records in the Gulf region, an investigation of long-term environmental trends would benefit from utilizing proxy records using geological archives. The geochemistry of reef building coral skeletons has provided high fidelity records of past marine environmental chemistry and climate in the tropics. Despite being located outside of the tropical latitudes, Kuwait is blessed with viable coral reefs that thrive in high temperature and salinity extremes of the Gulf. However, the utilization of corals as a past environmental archive in this region is still lacking. To date, one published study presented 22 years-long (1980-2002) climate proxy records using a coral of genus Porites from Qaro Island in offshore Kuwait (Gischler et al. 2005).

   The coral of genus Porites is indeed the most widely used coral for paleoclimatic studies; however, the lack of continuously growing Porites corals in Kuwait reefs motivates our work to utilize Platygyra corals to extend the temporal coverage of coral records from this region. Unlike the discontinuous growth pattern of Porites in our study sites, the brain shaped Platygyra forms a continuous growth pattern throughout the cores. With its meridionally more expansive distribution than and similar growth rate with Porites, Platygyra coral has a potential as a high resolution paleoenviromental archive in mid-latitude regions. Platygyra is not commonly used due to its complex structure. Nevertheless, previous works have confirmed the utility of Platygyra (Weber and Woodhead 1972) that is able to capture seasonal (Simamura et al. 2008) as well as long-term (Quinn et al. 1993, 1996) climate variability. Using continuously growing Platygyra corals of Kuwait, we aim to generate decades-long coral-based environmental records in order to investigate the histories of anthropogenic heavy metals (e.g. Pb, Cd), nutrient, and climate (e.g. SST and salinity) in the Arabian-Persian Gulf.

   In March 2011, we conducted coral sampling of genus Platygyra and Porites in Qaro and Kubar Islands from 5-8 meter depths via SCUBA diving. Thanks to Rick Walsh and Kuwaiti diving team for lending their manpower! Water sampling from around Kuwait waters were conducted for analyses at MIT during the same week.


Results from this work:

[1] Carrasco et al. "Lead, cadmium and copper concentrations and lead isotopic distribution in seawater, sediment and coral reefs in Kuwait." Goldschmidt Meeting 2012.

[2] Carrasco et al. "Tracing lead sources and chronologies in sediments and coral cores in Kuwait" Poster. Goldschmidt Meeting 2013. Florence


Rick during coral surveying.

Intan about to drill in 17C, 43 psu water, yet thriving corals around!

Ed, Gonzalo, Bondi and the rest of the water sampling team in their nice big boat.