KAUST is the custodian of a significant span of coastal water and a unique marine ecosystem. In June 2017, 152 hectares of mangrove and related habitat was set aside as a Nature Conservation Area. This formal designation is a testament to our commitment to protect and enhance local biodiversity.
We set the operational policies, guidelines, and monitoring systems aimed at keeping these mangroves healthy while providing opportunities for people to learn about the vast benefits these ecosystems provide. Birdwatching, nature walks, and classroom activities are examples of this public engagement.
The Nature Conservation Area is also home to the Ibn Sina Field Research Station, which hosts long-term experimental and monitoring programs by which KAUST researchers gather important information about the local biodiversity.
This area provides excellent opportunities to observe birds, as do other areas at KAUST, which lies on a major bird migratory route. More than 240 species of resident and migrant birds shelter here throughout the year.
In autumn, migrating birds leave their breeding grounds in Central Eurasia and along the Red Sea to winter in North and East Africa. In the spring, they return to the Red Sea.
Most birds break their long journeys into a series of shorter trips, with multiple stops along the way.
The location is ideal for birdwatching because of its variety of food for birds to replenish their energy supplies, its freshwater for drinking, and its vegetation for cover from predators.
SAFAA GOLF CLUB NATURE CONSERVATION AREA
The Safaa Golf Course is another protected area at KAUST. Seven areas of the course are fully protected, covering 2.2 hectares, and an additional 4.23 hectares of the course are semi-protected areas. These designated areas are managed to provide habitats for local fauna, including resident and migratory bird species. Bird observation “hides” (blinds)—camouflaged shelters used to view wildlife—are located on the Safaa Golf Course and South Beach.
Minimizing the alteration of aquatic ecosystems through monitoring
KAUST routinely evaluates the impact of its operations on its surrounding marine environment. To do so, monitoring of marine ambient water quality around KAUST is carried out bi-annually, to ensure all discharged water does not affect local aquatic ecosystems. The water samples are taken at several locations both on-shore, near-shore, and off-shore, and submitted to an accredited independent laboratory for analysis, being the results communicated and evaluated by the Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) department.
HSE also supervises and ensures the Wastewater Management Procedure is followed, especially by marine research infrastructures such as the Coastal and Marine Resources Core Lab. Additionally, another mechanism to protect the health of the aquatic system is to make sure that any recreational boats discharge grey wastewater in compliance with The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL).
HSE also monitors the water quality of manmade water bodies in the community surrounding KAUST. One example is the controlling and monitoring of the golf lake discharge that goes into marine areas. The Golf Course Lake System is monitored quarterly from multiple depths and water samples are submitted to an accredited independent laboratory for chemical, physical, and physico-chemical analysis. Approval is then sought from KAUST HSE prior to discharge, being contingent on water quality complying with the marine discharge water guidelines (set in the Wastewater Management Procedure), and that the flow volume is recorded.