Persian Gulf

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Persian Gulf
PersianGulf vue satellite du golfe persique.jpg
Persian Gulf from space
Location Western Asia
Coordinates Coordinates: 26°N52°E / 26°N 52°E / 26; 52
Type Gulf
Primary inflows Gulf of Oman
Basin  countries Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Oman (exclave of Musandam)
Max. length989 km (615 mi)
Surface area251,000 km2 (97,000 sq mi)
Average depth50 m (160 ft)
Max. depth90 m (300 ft)

The Persian Gulf (Persian : خلیج فارس, romanized: Xalij-e Fârs, lit.  'Gulf of Fars') is a mediterranean sea in Western Asia. The body of water is an extension of the Indian Ocean (Gulf of Oman) through the Strait of Hormuz and lies between Iran to the northeast and the Arabian Peninsula to the southwest. [1] The Shatt al-Arab river delta forms the northwest shoreline.

Persian language Western Iranian language

Persian, also known by its endonym Farsi, is a Western Iranian language belonging to the Iranian branch of the Indo-Iranian subdivision of the Indo-European languages. It is a pluricentric language predominantly spoken and used officially within Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan in three mutually intelligible standard varieties, namely Iranian Persian, Dari Persian and Tajiki Persian. It is also spoken natively in the Tajik variety by a significant population within Uzbekistan, as well as within other regions with a Persianate history in the cultural sphere of Greater Iran. It is written officially within Iran and Afghanistan in the Persian alphabet, a derivation of the Arabic script, and within Tajikistan in the Tajik alphabet, a derivation of Cyrillic.

Romanization of Persian or Latinization of Persian is the representation of the Persian language with the Latin script. Several different romanization schemes exist, each with its own set of rules driven by its own set of ideological goals.

Literal translation, direct translation, or word-for-word translation is the rendering of text from one language to another one word at a time with or without conveying the sense of the original whole.

Contents

The body of water is historically and internationally known as the "Persian Gulf". [2] [3] [4] Some Arab governments refer to it as the "Arabian Gulf" (Arabic : ٱلْخَلِيْج ٱلْعَرَبِي, romanized: Al-Khalīj al-ˁArabī) or "The Gulf", [5] but neither term is recognized globally. The name "Gulf of Iran (Persian Gulf)" is used by the International Hydrographic Organization. [6]

Arab League organisation of Arab states

The Arab League, formally the League of Arab States, is a regional organization of Arab states in and around North Africa, the Horn of Africa and Arabia. It was formed in Cairo on 22 March 1945 with six members: Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Yemen joined as a member on 5 May 1945. Currently, the League has 22 members, but Syria's participation has been suspended since November 2011, as a consequence of government repression during the Syrian Civil War.

The romanization of Arabic writes written and spoken Arabic in the Latin script in one of various systematic ways. Romanized Arabic is used for a number of different purposes, among them transcription of names and titles, cataloging Arabic language works, language education when used in lieu of or alongside the Arabic script, and representation of the language in scientific publications by linguists. These formal systems, which often make use of diacritics and non-standard Latin characters and are used in academic settings or for the benefit of non-speakers, contrast with informal means of written communication used by speakers such as the Latin-based Arabic chat alphabet.

International Hydrographic Organization Intergovernmental organization

The International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) is an inter-governmental organization representing hydrography. In August 2019 the IHO comprised 92 Member States.

The Persian Gulf was a battlefield of the 1980–1988 Iran–Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers. It is the namesake of the 1991 Gulf War, the largely air- and land-based conflict that followed Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

Iran–Iraq War 1980–1988 war between Iran and Iraq

The Iran–Iraq War began on 22 September 1980, when Iraq invaded Iran, and it ended on 20 August 1988, when Iran accepted the UN-brokered ceasefire. Iraq wanted to replace Iran as the dominant Persian Gulf state, and was worried that the 1979 Iranian Revolution would lead Iraq's Shi'ite majority to rebel against the Ba'athist government. The war also followed a long history of border disputes, and Iraq planned to annex the oil-rich Khuzestan Province and the east bank of the Arvand Rud.

Oil tanker Ship designed for the bulk transport of oil

An oil tanker, also known as a petroleum tanker, is a ship designed for the bulk transport of oil or its products. There are two basic types of oil tankers: crude tankers and product tankers. Crude tankers move large quantities of unrefined crude oil from its point of extraction to refineries. For example, moving crude oil from oil wells in a producing country to refineries in another country. Product tankers, generally much smaller, are designed to move refined products from refineries to points near consuming markets. For example, moving gasoline from refineries in Europe to consumer markets in Nigeria and other West African nations.

Gulf War 1990–1991 war between Iraq and Coalition Forces

The Gulf War, codenamed Operation Desert Shield for operations leading to the buildup of troops and defense of Saudi Arabia and Operation Desert Storm in its combat phase, was a war waged by coalition forces from 35 nations led by the United States against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait arising from oil pricing and production disputes. The war is also known under other names, such as the Persian Gulf War, First Gulf War, Gulf War I, Kuwait War, First Iraq War or Iraq War, before the term "Iraq War" became identified instead with the post-2003 Iraq War.

The Persian Gulf has many fishing grounds, extensive reefs (mostly rocky, but also coral), and abundant pearl oysters, but its ecology has been damaged by industrialization and oil spills.

Reef A bar of rock, sand, coral or similar material, lying beneath the surface of water

A reef is a bar of rock, sand, coral or similar material, lying beneath the surface of water. Many reefs result from natural, abiotic processes—deposition of sand, wave erosion planing down rock outcrops, etc.—but the best known reefs are the coral reefs of tropical waters developed through biotic processes dominated by corals and coralline algae.

Coral reef Outcrop of rock in the sea formed by the growth and deposit of stony coral skeletons

A coral reef is an underwater ecosystem characterized by reef-building corals. Reefs are formed of colonies of coral polyps held together by calcium carbonate. Most coral reefs are built from stony corals, whose polyps cluster in groups.

Oil spill Release of a liquid petroleum hydrocarbon into the environment, especially marine areas, due to human activity

An oil spill is the release of a liquid petroleum hydrocarbon into the environment, especially the marine ecosystem, due to human activity, and is a form of pollution. The term is usually given to marine oil spills, where oil is released into the ocean or coastal waters, but spills may also occur on land. Oil spills may be due to releases of crude oil from tankers, offshore platforms, drilling rigs and wells, as well as spills of refined petroleum products and their by-products, heavier fuels used by large ships such as bunker fuel, or the spill of any oily refuse or waste oil.

The Persian Gulf is in the Persian Gulf Basin, which is of Cenozoic origin and related to the subduction of the Arabian Plate under the Zagros Mountains. [7] The current flooding of the basin started 15,000 years ago due to rising sea levels of the Holocene glacial retreat. [8]

Persian Gulf Basin

The Persian Gulf Basin, is found between the Eurasian and the Arabian Plates. The Persian Gulf is described as a shallow marginal sea of the Indian Ocean that is located between the south western side of Iran and the Arabian Peninsula and south and southeastern side of Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Other countries that border the Persian Gulf basin include; Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Iraq. The Gulf extends a distance of 1000 km with an area of 240,000 square km. The Persian Gulf basin is a wedge-shaped foreland basin which lies beneath the western Zagros thrust and was created as a result of the collision between the Arabian and Eurasian plates.

Cenozoic Third and current era of the Phanerozoic Eon

The Cenozoic Era meaning "new life", is the current and most recent of the three Phanerozoic geological eras, following the Mesozoic Era and extending from 66 million years ago to the present day.

Arabian Plate A tectonic plate consisting mostly of the Arabian Peninsula, extending northward to the Levant

The Arabian Plate is a tectonic plate in the northern and eastern hemispheres.

Geography

This inland sea of some 251,000 square kilometres (96,912 sq mi) is connected to the Gulf of Oman in the east by the Strait of Hormuz; and its western end is marked by the major river delta of the Shatt al-Arab, which carries the waters of the Euphrates and the Tigris. In Iran this is called "Arvand Rood", where "Rood" means "river". Its length is 989 kilometres (615 miles), with Iran covering most of the northern coast and Saudi Arabia most of the southern coast. The Persian Gulf is about 56 km (35 mi) wide at its narrowest, in the Strait of Hormuz. The waters are overall very shallow, with a maximum depth of 90 metres (295 feet) and an average depth of 50 metres (164 feet).

Gulf of Oman Gulf that connects the Arabian Sea with the Strait of Hormuz

The Gulf of Oman or Sea of Oman is a gulf that connects the Arabian Sea with the Strait of Hormuz, which then runs to the Persian Gulf. It borders Iran and Pakistan on the north, Oman on the south, and the United Arab Emirates on the west.

Strait of Hormuz strait between the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf

The Strait of Hormuz is a strait between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. It provides the only sea passage from the Persian Gulf to the open ocean and is one of the world's most strategically important choke points. On the north coast lies Iran, and on the south coast the United Arab Emirates and Musandam, an exclave of Oman. The strait is about 90 nautical miles (167 km) long, with a width varying from about 52 nautical miles (96 km) to 21 nautical miles (39 km).

River delta Silt deposition landform at the mouth of a river

A river delta is a landform created by deposition of sediment that is carried by a river as the flow leaves its mouth and enters slower-moving or stagnant water. This occurs where a river enters an ocean, sea, estuary, lake, reservoir, or another river that cannot carry away the supplied sediment. The size and shape of a delta is controlled by the balance between watershed processes that supply sediment, and receiving basin processes that redistribute, sequester, and export that sediment. The size, geometry, and location of the receiving basin also plays an important role in delta evolution. River deltas are important in human civilization, as they are major agricultural production centers and population centers. They can provide coastline defense and can impact drinking water supply. They are also ecologically important, with different species' assemblages depending on their landscape position.

Countries with a coastline on the Persian Gulf are (clockwise, from the north): Iran; Oman's Musandam exclave; the United Arab Emirates; Saudi Arabia; Qatar, on a peninsula off the Saudi coast; Bahrain, on an island; Kuwait; and Iraq in the northwest. Various small islands also lie within the Persian Gulf, some of which are the subject of territorial disputes between the states of the region.

Extent

The International Hydrographic Organization defines the Persian Gulf's southern limit as "The Northwestern limit of Gulf of Oman". This limit is defined as "A line joining Ràs Limah (25°57'N) on the coast of Arabia and Ràs al Kuh (25°48'N) on the coast of Iran (Persia)". [6]

Oceanography

Persian gulf is connected to the Indian Ocean through the Strait of Hormuz. Writing the water balance budget for the Persian Gulf, the inputs are river discharges from Iran and Iraq (estimated to be 2,000 cubic metres (71,000 cu ft) per second), as well as precipitation over the sea which is around 180 mm (7.1 in)/year in Qeshm Island. The evaporation of the sea is high, so that after considering river discharge and rain contributions, there is still a deficit of 416 cubic kilometres (100 cu mi) per year. [9] This difference is supplied by currents at the Strait of Hormuz. The water from the Persian Gulf has a higher salinity, and therefore exits from the bottom of the Strait, while ocean water with less salinity flows in through the top. Another study revealed the following numbers for water exchanges for the Persian Gulf: evaporation = -1.84 m (6.0 ft)/year, precipitation = 0.08 m (0.26 ft)/year, inflow from the Strait = 33.66 m (110.4 ft)/year, outflow from the Strait = -32.11 m (105.3 ft)/year, and the balance is 0 m (0 ft)/year. [10] Data from different 3D computational fluid mechanics models, typically with spatial resolution of 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) and depth each element equal to 1–10 metres (3.3–32.8 ft) are predominantly used in computer models.

Oil and gas

Oil and gas pipelines and fields Oil and Gas Infrastructure Persian Gulf (large).gif
Oil and gas pipelines and fields

The Persian Gulf and its coastal areas are the world's largest single source of petroleum, [11] and related industries dominate the region. Safaniya Oil Field, the world's largest offshore oilfield, is located in the Persian Gulf. Large gas finds have also been made, with Qatar and Iran sharing a giant field across the territorial median line (North Field in the Qatari sector; South Pars Field in the Iranian sector). Using this gas, Qatar has built up a substantial liquefied natural gas (LNG) and petrochemical industry.

In 2002, the Persian Gulf nations of Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE produced about 25% of the world's oil, held nearly two-thirds of the world's crude oil reserves, and about 35% of the world's natural gas reserves. [12] [13] The oil-rich countries (excluding Iraq) that have a coastline on the Persian Gulf are referred to as the Persian Gulf States . Iraq's egress to the Persian gulf is narrow and easily blockaded consisting of the marshy river delta of the Shatt al-Arab, which carries the waters of the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers, where the east bank is held by Iran.

Name

Map of the Persian Gulf. The Gulf of Oman leads to the Arabian Sea. Detail from larger map of the Middle East. Persian Gulf map.png
Map of the Persian Gulf. The Gulf of Oman leads to the Arabian Sea. Detail from larger map of the Middle East.

In 550 BC, the Achaemenid Empire established the first ancient empire in Persis (Pars, or modern Fars ), in the southwestern region of the Iranian plateau. Consequently, in the Greek sources, the body of water that bordered this province came to be known as the "Persian Gulf". [14]

During the years 550 to 330 BC, coinciding with the sovereignty of the Achaemenid Persian Empire over the Middle East area, especially the whole part of the Persian Gulf and some parts of the Arabian Peninsula, the name of "Pars Sea" is widely found in the compiled written texts. [1]

In the travel account of Pythagoras, several chapters are related to description of his travels accompanied by the Achaemenid king Darius the Great, to Susa and Persepolis, and the area is described. From among the writings of others in the same period, there is the inscription and engraving of Darius the Great, installed at junction of waters of Red Sea and the Nile river and the Rome river (current Mediterranean) which belongs to the 5th century BC where Darius the Great has named the Persian Gulf Water Channel: "Pars Sea" ("Persian Sea"). [1] King Darius says: [15]

I ordered to dig this (Suez) canal from the river that is called Nile and flows in Egypt, to the sea that begins in Pars. Therefore, when this canal had been dug as I had ordered, ships went from Egypt through this canal to Pars, as I had intended.

Darius I

Considering the historical background of the name Persian Gulf, Sir Arnold Wilson mentions in a book published in 1928 that "no water channel has been so significant as Persian Gulf to the geologists, archaeologists, geographers, merchants, politicians, excursionists, and scholars whether in past or in present. This water channel which separates the Iran Plateau from the Arabia Plate, has enjoyed an Iranian Identity since at least 2200 years ago." [1]

Before being given its present name, the Persian Gulf was called many different names. The classical Greek writers, like Herodotus, called it "the Red Sea". In Babylonian texts, it was known as "the sea above Akkad".[ citation needed ]

Naming dispute

A historical map of the Persian Gulf in a Dubai museum with the word Persian removed Persian-gulf-dubai-mus.JPG
A historical map of the Persian Gulf in a Dubai museum with the word Persian removed

The name of this gulf, historically and internationally known as the Persian Gulf after the land of Persia (Iran), has been disputed by some Arab countries since the 1960s. [18] Rivalry between Iran and some Arab states, along with the emergence of pan-Arabism and Arab nationalism, has seen the name Arabian Gulf become predominant in most Arab countries. [19] [20] Names beyond these two have also been applied to or proposed for this body of water.

History

Ancient history

Diorama of Paleolithic hunter-gatherers at Qeshm Island Qeshm Museum-Iran 2018.jpg
Diorama of Paleolithic hunter-gatherers at Qeshm Island
Picture depicting extent of early civilizations around the Persian Gulf, including Lackhmids, and Sassanids. NE 565ad.jpg
Picture depicting extent of early civilizations around the Persian Gulf, including Lackhmids, and Sassanids.
Picture depicting the Achaemenid Persian empire in relation to the Persian Gulf. Map of the Achaemenid Empire.jpg
Picture depicting the Achaemenid Persian empire in relation to the Persian Gulf.
A painting depicting the British Expeditionary Force off the coast of Ras Al Khaimah in 1809. Ras Al Khaimah by Charles Hamilton Smith.jpg
A painting depicting the British Expeditionary Force off the coast of Ras Al Khaimah in 1809.
Operation Earnest Will: Tanker convoy No. 12 under US Navy escort in October 1987 Earnest Will Gas King.jpg
Operation Earnest Will: Tanker convoy No. 12 under US Navy escort in October 1987
Locater map depicting Iran Air Flight 655's origination point, destination and approximate shootdown location. Iran Air 655 Strait of hormuz 80.jpg
Locater map depicting Iran Air Flight 655's origination point, destination and approximate shootdown location.

Earliest evidence of human presence on Persian Gulf islands dates back to Middle Paleolithic and consist of stone tools discovered at Qeshm Island [21] .The world's oldest known civilization (Sumer) developed along the Persian Gulf and southern Mesopotamia. The shallow basin that now underlies the Persian Gulf was an extensive region of river valley and wetlands during the transition between the end of the Last Glacial Maximum and the start of the Holocene, which, according to University of Birmingham archaeologist Jeffrey Rose, served as an environmental refuge for early humans during periodic hyperarid climate oscillations, laying the foundations for the legend of Dilmun. [22]

For most of the early history of the settlements in the Persian Gulf, the southern shores were ruled by a series of nomadic tribes. During the end of the fourth millennium BC, the southern part of the Persian Gulf was dominated by the Dilmun civilization. For a long time the most important settlement on the southern coast of the Persian Gulf was Gerrha. In the 2nd century the Lakhum tribe, who lived in what is now Yemen, migrated north and founded the Lakhmid Kingdom along the southern coast. Occasional ancient battles took place along the Persian Gulf coastlines, between the Sassanid Persian empire and the Lakhmid Kingdom, the most prominent of which was the invasion led by Shapur II against the Lakhmids, leading to Lakhmids' defeat, and advancement into Arabia, along the southern shore lines. [23] During the 7th century the Sassanid Persian empire conquered the whole of the Persian Gulf, including southern and northern shores.

Between 625 BC and 226 AD, the northern side was dominated by a succession of Persian empires including the Median, Achaemenid, Seleucid and Parthian empires. Under the leadership of the Achaemenid king Darius the Great (Darius I), Persian ships found their way to the Persian Gulf. [24] Persian naval forces laid the foundation for a strong Persian maritime presence in Persian Gulf, that started with Darius I and existed until the arrival of the British East India Company, and the Royal Navy by mid-19th century AD. Persians were not only stationed on islands of the Persian Gulf, but also had ships often of 100 to 200 capacity patrolling empire's various rivers including Shatt-al-Arab, Tigris, and the Nile in the west, as well as Sind waterway, in India. [24]

The Achaemenid high naval command had established major naval bases located along Shatt al-Arab river, Bahrain, Oman, and Yemen. The Persian fleet would soon not only be used for peacekeeping purposes along the Shatt al-Arab but would also open the door to trade with India via Persian Gulf. [24] [25]

Following the fall of Achaemenid Empire, and after the fall of the Parthian Empire, the Sassanid empire ruled the northern half and at times the southern half of the Persian Gulf. The Persian Gulf, along with the Silk Road, were important trade routes in the Sassanid empire. Many of the trading ports of the Persian empires were located in or around Persian Gulf. Siraf, an ancient Sassanid port that was located on the northern shore of the Persian gulf, located in what is now the Iranian province of Bushehr, is an example of such commercial port. Siraf, was also significant in that it had a flourishing commercial trade with China by the 4th century, having first established connection with the far east in 185 AD. [26]

Colonial era

The Portuguese Castle on Hormuz Island (Gaspar Correia. "Lendas da India", c. 1556) Hormuz fort-Correia.png
The Portuguese Castle on Hormuz Island (Gaspar Correia. "Lendas da Índia", c. 1556)

Portuguese expansion into the Indian Ocean in the early 16th century following Vasco da Gama's voyages of exploration saw them battle the Ottomans up the coast of the Persian Gulf. In 1521, a Portuguese force led by commander Antonio Correia invaded Bahrain to take control of the wealth created by its pearl industry. On April 29, 1602, Shāh Abbās, the Persian emperor of the Safavid Persian Empire expelled the Portuguese from Bahrain, [27] and that date is commemorated as National Persian Gulf day in Iran. [28] With the support of the British fleet, in 1622 'Abbās took the island of Hormuz from the Portuguese; much of the trade was diverted to the town of Bandar 'Abbās, which he had taken from the Portuguese in 1615 and had named after himself. The Persian Gulf was therefore opened by Persians to a flourishing commerce with the Portuguese, Dutch, French, Spanish and the British merchants, who were granted particular privileges. The Ottoman Empire reasserted itself into Eastern Arabia in 1871. [29] Under military and political pressure from the governor of the Ottoman Vilayet of Baghdad, Midhat Pasha, the ruling Al Thani tribe submitted peacefully to Ottoman rule. [30] The Ottomans were forced to withdraw from the area with the start of World War I and the need for troops in various other frontiers. [31]

In World War II, the Western Allies used Iran as a conduit to transport military and industrial supply to the USSR, through a pathway known historically as the "Persian Corridor". Britain utilized the Persian Gulf as the entry point for the supply chain in order to make use of the Trans-Iranian Railway. [32] The Persian Gulf therefore became a critical maritime path through which the Allies transported equipment to Soviet Union against the Nazi invasion. [33]

The piracy in the Persian Gulf was prevalent until the 19th century. Many of the most notable historical instances of piracy were perpetrated by the Al Qasimi tribe. This led to the British mounting the Persian Gulf campaign of 1819. [34] The campaign led to the signing of the General Maritime Treaty of 1820 between the British and the Sheikhs of what was then known as the 'Pirate Coast'.

From 1763 until 1971, the British Empire maintained varying degrees of political control over some of the Persian Gulf states, including the United Arab Emirates (originally called the Trucial States) [35] and at various times Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar through the British Residency of the Persian Gulf.

Modern history

The United States' role in the Persian Gulf grew in the second half of the Twentieth Century. [36] The United Kingdom maintains a profile in the region; in 2006 alone, over 1 million British nationals visited Dubai. [37] [38] In 2018, the UK opened a permanent military base, HMS Jufair, in the Persian Gulf, the first since it withdrew from East of Suez in 1971 and is developing a support facility in Oman. [39] [40] [41]

Islands

The Persian Gulf is home to many islands such as Bahrain, an Arab state. Geographically the biggest island in the Persian Gulf is Qeshm island located in the Strait of Hormuz and belongs to Iran. Other significant islands in the Persian Gulf include Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Kish administered by Iran, Bubiyan administered by Kuwait, Tarout administered by Saudi Arabia, and Dalma administered by UAE. In recent years, there has also been addition of artificial islands for tourist attractions, such as The World Islands in Dubai and The Pearl-Qatar in Doha. Persian Gulf islands are often also historically significant, having been used in the past by colonial powers such as the Portuguese and the British in their trade or as acquisitions for their empires. [42]

Cities and population

Eight nations have coasts along the Persian Gulf: Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The Persian gulf's strategic location has made it an ideal place for human development over time. Today, many major cities of the Middle East are located in this region.

Wildlife

The wildlife of the Persian Gulf is diverse, and entirely unique due to the Persian gulf's geographic distribution and its isolation from the international waters only breached by the narrow Strait of Hormuz. The Persian Gulf has hosted some of the most magnificent marine fauna and flora, some of which are near extirpation or at serious environmental risk. From corals, to dugongs, Persian Gulf is a diverse cradle for many species who depend on each other for survival. However, the Persian gulf is not as biologically diverse as the Red Sea. [43]

Overall, the wild life of the Persian Gulf is endangered from both global factors, and regional, local negligence. Most pollution is from ships; land generated pollution counts as the second most common source of pollution. [44]

Aquatic mammals

Along the mediterranean regions of the Arabian Sea, including the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Kutch, the Gulf of Suez, the Gulf of Aqaba, the Gulf of Aden, and the Gulf of Oman, dolphins and finless porpoises are the most common marine mammals in the waters, while larger whales and orcas are rarer today. [45] Historically, whales had been abundant in the Persian gulf before commercial hunts wiped them out. [46] [47] Whales were reduced even further by illegal mass hunts by the Soviet Union and Japan in the 1960s and 1970s. [48] Along with Bryde's whales, [49] [50] [51] [52] these once common residents can still can be seen in deeper marginal seas such as Gulf of Aden, [53] Israel coasts, [54] and in the Strait of Hormuz. [55] Other species such as the critically endangered Arabian humpback whale, [56] (also historically common in Gulf of Aden [57] and increasingly sighted in the Red Sea since 2006, including in the Gulf of Aqaba), [54] omura's whale, [58] [59] minke whale, and orca also swim into the Persian gulf, while many other large species such as blue whale, [60] sei, [61] and sperm whales were once migrants into the Gulf of Oman and off the coasts in deeper waters, [62] and still migrate into the Red Sea, [63] but mainly in deeper waters of outer seas. In 2017, waters of the Persian Gulf along Abu Dhabi were revealed to hold the world's largest population of Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphins. [64] [65] [66]

One of the more unusual marine mammals living in the Persian Gulf is the dugong (Dugong dugon). Also called "sea cows", for their grazing habits and mild manner resembling livestock, dugongs have a life expectancy similar to that of humans and they can grow up to 3 metres (9.8 feet) in length. These gentle mammals feed on sea grass and are closer relatives of certain land mammals than are dolphins and whales. [67] Their simple grass diet is negatively affected by new developments along the Persian Gulf coastline, particularly the construction of artificial islands by Arab states and pollution from oil spills caused during the "Persian Gulf war" and various other natural and artificial causes. Uncontrolled hunting has also had a negative impact on the survival of dugongs. [67] After Australian waters, which are estimated to contain some 80,000 dugong inhabitants, the waters off Qatar, Bahrain, UAE, and Saudi Arabia make the Persian Gulf the second most important habitat for the species, hosting some 7,500 remaining dugongs. However, the current number of dugongs is dwindling and it is not clear how many are currently alive or what their reproductive trend is. [67] [68] Unfortunately, ambitious and uncalculated construction schemes, political unrest, ever-present international conflict, the most lucrative world supply of oil, and the lack of cooperation between Arab states and Iran, have had a negative impact on the survival of many marine species, including dugongs.

Birds

The Persian Gulf is also home to many migratory and local birds. There is great variation in color, size, and type of the bird species that call the Persian gulf home. Concerns regarding the endangerment of the kalbaensis subspecies of the collared kingfishers were raised by conservationists due to real state development by the United Arab Emirates and Oman. [69] Estimates from 2006 showed that only three viable nesting sites were available for this ancient bird, one located 80 miles (129 km) from Dubai, and two smaller sites in Oman. [69] Such real estate expansion could prove devastating to this subspecies. A UN plan to protect the mangroves as a biological reserve was ignored by the emirate of Sharjah, which allowed the dredging of a channel that bisects the wetland and construction of an adjacent concrete walkway. [69] Environmental watchdogs in Arabia are few, and those that do advocate the wildlife are often silenced or ignored by developers of real estate many of whom have governmental connections. [69]

Real estate development in the Persian Gulf by the United Arab Emirates and Oman also raised concerns that habitats of species such as the hawksbill turtle, greater flamingo, and booted warbler may be destroyed. [69] [70] The dolphins that frequent the Persian gulf in northern waters around Iran are also at risk. Recent statistics and observations show that dolphins are at danger of entrapment in purse seine fishing nets and exposure to chemical pollutants; perhaps the most alarming sign is the "mass suicides" committed by dolphins off Iran's Hormozgan province, which are not well understood, but are suspected to be linked with a deteriorating marine environment from water pollution from oil, sewage, and industrial run offs. [71] [72]

Fish and reefs

The Persian Gulf is home to over 700 species of fish, most of which are native. [73] Of these 700 species, more than 80% are reef associated. [73] These reefs are primarily rocky, but there are also a few coral reefs. Compared to the Red Sea, the coral reefs in the Persian Gulf are relatively few and far between. [74] [75] [76] This is primarily connected to the influx of major rivers, especially the Shatt al-Arab (Euphrates and Tigris), which carry large amounts of sediment (most reef-building corals require strong light) and causes relatively large variations in temperature and salinity (corals in general are poorly suited to large variations). [74] [75] [76] Nevertheless, coral reefs have been found along sections of coast of all countries in the Persian gulf. [76] Corals are vital ecosystems that support multitude of marine species, and whose health directly reflects the health of the Persian gulf. Recent years have seen a drastic decline in the coral population in the Persian gulf, partially owing to global warming but majorly due to irresponsible dumping by Arab states like the UAE and Bahrain. [77] Construction garbage such as tires, cement, and chemical by products have found their way to the Persian Gulf in recent years. Aside from direct damage to the coral, the construction waste creates "traps" for marine life in which they are trapped and die. [77] The end result has been a dwindling population of the coral, and as a result a decrease in number of species that rely on the corals for their survival.

Flora

A great example of this symbiosis are the mangroves in the Persian gulf, which require tidal flow and a combination of fresh and salt water for growth, and act as nurseries for many crabs, small fish, and insects; these fish and insects are the source of food for many of the marine birds that feed on them. [69] Mangroves are a diverse group of shrubs and trees belonging to the genus Avicennia or Rhizophora that flourish in the salt water shallows of the Persian gulf, and are the most important habitats for small crustaceans that dwell in them. They are as crucial an indicator of biological health on the surface of the water, as the corals are to biological health of the Persian gulf in deeper waters. Mangroves' ability to survive the salt water through intricate molecular mechanisms, their unique reproductive cycle, and their ability to grow in the most oxygen-deprived waters have allowed them extensive growth in hostile areas of the Persian gulf. [78] [79] However, with the advent of artificial island development, most of their habitat is destroyed, or occupied by man-made structures. This has had a negative impact on the crustaceans that rely on the mangrove, and in turn on the species that feed on them.

See also

Related Research Articles

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