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Status of subtidal biotopes of the Jubail Marine Wildlife Sanctuary with special reference to soft-substrata communities

A b s t r a c t: Subtidal surveys and benthic sampling were initiated in February 1992 and continued in May and October 1993, and in February, April and May 1994. The surveys revealed a diversity of marine subtidal biotopes similar to that found elsewhere in the northern Gulf. These included coral patch and fringing reefs, seagrass beds, macroalgae-dominated rock outcrops and sand and silt seabeds. Distribution of these biotopes was incorporated into a detailed marine habitat chart for the Sanctuary. Species composition and abundance of macrofaunal organisms> 1 mm were investigated for soft-substratum habitats at permanent monitoring stations in and outside of the area affected by the oil spill. These studies failed to suggest any effect of the oil on the subtidal benthic communities and revealed a rich species composition as well as a clear seasonal trend in species numbers and abundance over the year. With the exception of two small, localised sites, there was no visual evidence of oil contamination of the subtidal region. Possible origins of this oil are discussed as are future subtidal research and monitoring priorities.


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