Sabkhat shores
 
  “Sabkha” (pl. sabkhat) is the Arabic term for a salt-encrusted desert. Sabkhat are a widespread geomorphologic feature in the coastal lowlands of Saudi Arabia. Within the study area sabkhat cover about 45 km of coastline. In its local usage the term “sabkha” encompasses both, the extensive, barren, salt encrusted and periodically flooded coastal flats and inland flats. Sabkhat bordered by tidal flats usually display several sabkhat types according to the frequency of inundation by seawater. The typical succession is:
Inland sabkha pr supralittoral sabkha pr coastal sabkha pr tidal flat. In some cases salt marshes can be found adjacent to coastal sabkhat.
 
  sabkha terrain

Coastal sabkha with "Kuthban"

in Dawhat ad-Dafi

 
  High salinity prevents the growth of vegetation both in the supralittoral zone and the littoral fringe. Therefore sabkhat shores are bare of any vegetation. Apart from the absence of vegetation, the environmental conditions are quite similar to those of salt marshes or those of low energy sandy shores, depending on the dominant substrate (fine sediments / sand).
Due to the higher salt concentrations in the soil, there are primarily cyanobacteria in the upper eulittoral instead of salt marsh vegetation.
 
  According to the sediment type, the oil distribution as well as the benthic fauna is comparable to either salt marshes or low energy sandy shores. The most important macrofauna of sabkhat shores with fine sediments are crabs, gastropods, molluscs and Polychaeta. The dominant species are: Cleistostoma dottiliforme, Metopograpsus messor, Macrophthalamus depressus and Ilyoplax frater. Polychaeta such as Pirinella conica or Mitrella blanda are very abundant. In the group of bivalves Dosinia hepatica is the most prominent species.
The
typical animals living on sandy sabkhat shores are crabs such as Ocypode rotundata, gastropods, polychaetes such as Owenia sp., marine snails and bivalves.
Just as salt marshes or low energy sandy beaches, sabkhat shores were heavily oiled after the 1991 Oil Spill. Large areas were covered by
cyanobacteria mats.
 
 

(Barth 2002) (Photo: F. Krupp)

 
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