Towards a combined human-natural system approach in the Northern Red Sea Region: Ecological challenges, sustainable development, and community engagement

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The northern Red Sea coastal ecosystem is one of the most diverse coastal ecosystems in the world. Fortunately, it has shown extraordinary resilience against climate change and is predicted to survive global warming during the coming decades. However, with warming waters, increased sediment and pollutants, and other human impacts, the ecosystem and consequently thriving reef tourism which forms a pillar of the ongoing economic diversification policies of the northern Red Sea region are under threat. A variety of evidence indicates significant damage has already been done to terrestrial and ocean ecosystems on both sides of the northern Red Sea. Expenditures on ecosystem protection and research lag behind Egypt's billions in USD revenue from tourism. Unfortunately, the economic drive to generate profit has resulted in sprawling touristic, industrial, and mixed development without careful planning or assessment of the fragility and sustainability of the natural ecosystem. As a result, the future of coastal urban growth is murky. Given its natural, social, and touristic value, the northern Red Sea system requires a special ecological security system with detailed analysis, inclusive development, and proactive governance across coastal cities and their adjacent inland secondary cities. This study identifies the geological research gaps, human-ecological interactions, inclusive urban development challenges, and related literature pertaining to the northern Red Sea. We propose immediate, targeted, multidisciplinary research trajectories and provide policy recommendations to ensure that the region's existing and future developmental pursuits are undertaken in an environmentally sustainable and inclusive approach.

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Marine Policy