The importance of the oceans to the future of our planet has never been clearer than it is today. The UN has declared 2021 the start of a “Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development”, with the aim of sharing knowledge to protect and nourish this extraordinary natural resource for future generations. At Saudi Aramco, we believe the oceans are a shared heritage: covering 71% of the Earth’s surface, they connect all continents in a global ecosystem that is as complex as it is irreplaceable.
Aramco welcomes the United Nations drawing attention to the importance of marine environments and recognizing the need to act on multiple fronts to protect life and livelihoods. This is why we have long partnerships with scientists, researchers and other experts on a wide range of initiatives, including the collection of a multitude of unique data, particularly on the waters of the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf.
The projects Aramco has launched to protect marine ecosystems have a global reach – with a particular focus on the regeneration of coral reefs and the restoration of mangroves. Other projects include protecting endangered sea turtles and growing seaweed to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere to reduce the impact of climate change. We have also implemented community outreach and education programs to share knowledge with students and children, so that they grow up understanding the importance and value of the oceans as well.
Behind Aramco’s environmental work hides a precious resource that we want to share with the world: scientific data. To protect any marine environment, you must first find out what is there, and we have been monitoring the waters in parts of the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf region for decades, frequently visiting the same reefs. .
Our scientists and experts have collected valuable information regarding wave height, currents, dissolved oxygen, water temperature, clarity, salinity, and the concentration of chlorophyll, the pigment that provides energy for water. photosynthesis. Aramco wishes to help the global scientific community by giving free access to this data to support other environmental projects, and we are already working in partnership with several international organizations, such as the C4IR Ocean and its ocean data platform, to continue. this goal.
Regeneration of coral reefs
At the level of our projects, we have supported the regeneration of threatened coral reefs. All over the world, these precious and fragile ecosystems, which provide habitat for hundreds of marine species while forming a natural barrier against coastal erosion, have been degraded. This damage has multiple causes, including coastal and offshore development, illegal fishing practices, pollution and increased sea temperature caused by climate change.
Recognizing the seriousness of the problem, Aramco has taken action through a series of initiatives in the Persian Gulf, Florida, Hawaii, American Samoa and the Caribbean. In the Arabian Gulf, for example, most coral communities are found near offshore islands, and we realized that one of the factors preventing damaged reefs from regenerating was the lack of hard soil on which the coral. could reform. So we designed and built a series of strong and stable artificial reef structures on the seabed, which the coral could then recolonize, providing new habitat for a wide variety of marine organisms. Our scientists are keeping a close eye on these highly successful regenerated reefs: fish are thriving and the variety of marine life has increased, while the reefs are more resilient.
A second area in which Aramco is playing a leading role is the planting of millions of mangroves in the coastal regions. Restoring degraded mangrove forests in this way has great benefits for both biodiversity and carbon capture, through which trees and plants extract and store CO2 from the atmosphere. Research shows that mangrove trees are around five times more efficient at sequestering CO2 than terrestrial rainforest trees, making them an effective nature-based solution to tackling climate change. We know that these projects are having a significant impact and, building on this success, Aramco aims to plant more mangroves in Saudi Arabia and around the world, in partnership with global leaders, through projects in South East Asia, in Australasia, South America, the Caribbean, East Africa and South Asia. It is a truly global company.
Commitment to the environment
Aramco also recently developed a new corporate biodiversity protection policy, which requires all new Aramco projects to have a net positive impact on biodiversity and natural ecosystems. The great advantage of this approach is that the diversity of living things in any area in which Aramco operates – whether land, coastal or marine – is taken into consideration before any new project can begin. If a negative impact on biodiversity is identified, it should be avoided, mitigated or compensated as a last resort. This environmental approach is now mandatory in all our projects and operations.
The company’s first environmental protection policy was introduced in 1964 and we recently published a book on the ecosystem and biodiversity of the Persian Gulf, summarizing 50 years of scientific research between Aramco and King Fahd University. petroleum and minerals. Our recently published Marine Atlas of the Western Persian Gulf provides a baseline of marine ecosystems and their locations. The two books illustrate the beauty and biodiversity of the marine ecosystems of the Persian Gulf, their sensitivities and vulnerabilities. Our environmental partners include global organizations, regional task forces, and local universities, such as KFUPM and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.
Our commitment to the world’s oceans is clear: we intend to protect and support them with care, investment and expertise; always working to ensure that Aramco’s operations do not have a negative impact on the marine environment, and improve it whenever we can.
- Dr Khaled Asfahani is responsible for the protection of the marine environment at Aramco and Dr Loughland is an environmental consultant at Aramco.