Background: The coral ecosystem in Qatar is very important as it provides a foundation habitat for many aquatic species. An extensive two-year field study was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of pulse amplitude modulation (PAM) fluorometry in monitoring the health of sensitive ecosystems such as coral reefs along the coast of Qatar. The study demonstrated that PAM fluorometry can provide reliable and objective information on coral health in advance of visual signs of stress. The scope has now been expanded to include laboratory-based research. Objectives: The objectives of this research are: a) to establish a viable laboratory-based Qatari coral (Acropora sp.) culture system and b) to utilize laboratory-based imaging-PAM fluorometry to compile baseline data, and gain an understanding of environmental parameters that affect the health of the Qatari coral. Methods: Laboratory studies were initiated in December 2011; Acropora samples were collected from mother colonies in Umm Al-Arshan (north of Qatar); the 'nubbins' were cultured in pre-acclimatized laboratory aquaria. Imaging-PAM fluorometer was used to measure photosynthetic processes that were correlated to laboratory culture conditions. A wide range of water quality parameters have been measured, including: temperature, salinity, ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, phosphate, calcium and pH. Results: This research showed that it is possible to successfully culture Acropora coral; the initial colonies have grown to the point that several subsequent colonies have been produced to initiate laboratory assay development. The results of the imaging-PAM also show good correlation with the data obtained using the instrument used in the field. Conclusion: This study demonstrated for the first time the successful culture of Qatari Acropora in a laboratory setting in Qatar. The imaging-PAM fluorometer was also used to obtain detailed visual images of photosynthesis processes. Future studies include Acroproa eco-toxicological experiments to study contaminants that could affect the health of the corals around the Qatari coastal area.


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