Microorganisms are the cornerstone of all marine life in the Red Sea

Microorganisms are the cornerstone of all marine life in the Red Sea

A diver swims past coral on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. (AP)
A diver swims past coral on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. (AP)
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Between the continents of Africa and Asia lies the Red Sea, a semi-enclosed basin located in oligotrophic (limited in nutrients) tropical and subtropical regions. Despite its harsh conditions, including elevated temperatures, high salinities and limited nutrients, it harbors rich diversity.

Within its clear blue waters lies another world, unseen to the naked eye but which plays a significant role in marine ecosystems.

Microbes are found suspended in the water column, spanning from the surface to the deep, dark sea. With millions of cells and particles in only one milliliter, they indeed form the unseen majority of the Red Sea.

Although microbes have often been overlooked, they are an essential component of the marine ecosystem.

They stimulate nutrient cycling, contribute to oxygen production, promote gas exchange between the sea and the atmosphere, support fisheries and form symbiotic relationships with fish and invertebrates to maintain a healthy balance in this marine environment.

These microbes together form a natural cycle called the microbial food web. It includes complex trophic interactions, in which energy and matter are recycled through microorganisms to reach higher levels in the food chain.

Microbial communities are composed of living organisms and nonliving biological entities such as viruses.

Cyanobacteria, tiny photosynthetic bacteria (0.2 to 0.2 micrometers), form the base of the microbial food web. Like plants, they perform photosynthesis to gain energy from sunlight to produce oxygen and organic matter.

Although microbes have often been overlooked, they are an essential component of the marine ecosystem.

Eman Sabbagh

Heterotrophic bacteria (0.2 to 0.5 micrometers), another element in the microbial food web, rely on the organic matter produced by cyanobacteria as a source of energy.

Another member of the microbial community is zooplankton, which are slightly larger (2 to 20 micrometers) and mainly predate on bacteria as their preferred source of food.

Viruses, meanwhile, are also important microbial components of the food web. Although they are very small (0.02 to 0.2 micrometers), they are the most abundant biological entities on the planet.

When we hear the word virus, the first thing that comes to mind is infection and mortality, but in truth viruses play a far more important role in the health and balance of marine ecosystems.

The contribution of beneficial microorganisms within the microbial food web, as well as those forming symbiotic relationships with other marine creatures and those simply suspended in the water column, serves as the cornerstone of all forms of marine life and, without it, life in the sea would not exist.

Indeed, these microscopic microbes have revealed some secrets, but much mystery remains hidden.

In celebration of World Water Day, I hope this article can help raise awareness about global waters, shedding light not only on the widely seen part but also on the invisible one.

I also want to take a moment to emphasize the remarkable efforts undertaken by the National Center for Wildlife in discovering novel habitats, such as blue holes, which I am sure are full of mystery.

The National Center for Wildlife is also dedicated to protecting marine and coastal environments in the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf, including coral reefs, seagrass and mangroves and the associated biodiversity, from large marine mammals to tiny algae, aligning with the Saudi Green Initiative and Vision 2030.

Eman Sabbagh spent eight years at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology working in the field of the microbial ecology of the Red Sea. She now works at the National Center for Wildlife.

 

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view

More aid getting from US pier to people in Gaza, officials say, after troubled launch

More aid getting from US pier to people in Gaza, officials say, after troubled launch
Updated 2 min 32 sec ago
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More aid getting from US pier to people in Gaza, officials say, after troubled launch

More aid getting from US pier to people in Gaza, officials say, after troubled launch
  • Crowds overrun some of the first trucks coming from the new US-led sea route and taking its contents over the weekend, leading to a two-day suspension of aid distribution
  • At maximum capacity, the pier would bring in enough food for 500,000 of Gaza’s people. US officials stressed the need for flow through open land crossings for the remaining 1.8 million

WASHINGTON: A six-day-old US pier project in Gaza is starting to get more aid to Palestinians in need but conditions are challenging, US officials said Thursday. That reflects the larger problems bringing food and other supplies to starving people in the besieged territory.

The floating pier had a troubled launch, with crowds overrunning some of the first trucks coming from the new US-led sea route and taking its contents over the weekend. One man in the crowd was shot dead in still-unexplained circumstances. It led to a two-day suspension of aid distribution.
The US military worked with the UN and Israeli officials to select safer alternate routes for trucks coming from the pier, US Vice Admiral Brad Cooper told reporters Thursday.
As a result, the US pier on Wednesday accounted for 27 of the 70 total trucks of aid that the UN was able to round up from all land and sea crossings into Gaza for distribution to civilians, the United States said.
That’s a fraction of the 150 truckloads of food, emergency nutrition treatment and other supplies that US officials aim to bring in when the sea route is working at maximum capacity.
Plus, Gaza needs 600 trucks entering each day, according to the US Agency for International Development, to curb a famine that the heads of USAID and the UN World Food Program have said has begun in the north and to keep it from spreading south.

Only one of the 54 trucks that came from the pier Tuesday and Wednesday encountered any security issues on their way to aid warehouses and distribution points, US officials said. They called the issues “minor” but gave no details.
A deepening Israeli offensive in the southern city of Rafah has made it impossible for aid shipments to get through the crossing there, which is a key source for fuel and food coming into Gaza. Israel says it is bringing aid in through another border crossing, Kerem Shalom, but humanitarian organizations say Israeli military operations make it difficult for them to retrieve the aid there for distribution.
The Biden administration last week launched the $320 million floating pier for a new maritime aid route into Gaza as the seven-month-old Israel-Hamas war and Israeli restrictions on land crossings have severely limited food deliveries to 2.3 million Palestinians.
For all humanitarian efforts, “the risks are manifold,” Daniel Dieckhaus, USAID’s response director for Gaza, said at a briefing with Cooper. “This is an active conflict with deteriorating conditions.”
Dieckhaus rejected charges from some aid groups that the pier is diverting attention from what the US, UN and relief workers say is the essential need for Israel to allow full access to land crossings for humanitarian shipments.
For instance, Jeremy Konyndyk, a former USAID official now leading Refugees International, tweeted that “the pier is humanitarian theater.”
“I would not call, within a couple of days, getting enough food and other supplies for tens of thousands of people for a month theater,” Dieckhaus said Thursday when asked about the criticism.
At maximum capacity, the pier would bring in enough food for 500,000 of Gaza’s people. US officials stressed the need for flow through open land crossings for the remaining 1.8 million.
 


Netanyahu will soon address joint session of US Congress, House Speaker Johnson says

Netanyahu will soon address joint session of US Congress, House Speaker Johnson says
Updated 25 min 10 sec ago
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Netanyahu will soon address joint session of US Congress, House Speaker Johnson says

Netanyahu will soon address joint session of US Congress, House Speaker Johnson says

WASHINGTON: Republican US House Speaker Mike Johnson said on Thursday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will soon address a joint session of Congress amid heightened tensions with President Joe Biden, a Democrat, over the Israeli leader’s handling of the war in Gaza.

(Developing story)

 


Three US troops have non-combat injuries during Gaza pier operation

Three US troops have non-combat injuries during Gaza pier operation
Updated 29 min 1 sec ago
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Three US troops have non-combat injuries during Gaza pier operation

Three US troops have non-combat injuries during Gaza pier operation

WASHINGTON: Three US troops suffered non-combat injuries in the effort to make a temporary pier off the coast of Gaza into a conduit for humanitarian aid, with one in critical condition at an Israeli hospital, US officials said on Thursday.

The injuries were the first for US forces during the latest operation to bring humanitarian aid to Palestinians.

The pier was announced by US President Joe Biden in March and involved the military assembling the floating structure off the coast. Estimated to cost $320 million for the first 90 days and involve about 1,000 US service members, it went into operation last week.

US Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, the deputy commander of US Central Command, told reporters that two of the troops had a sprained ankle and a minor back injury.

“Two were very minor, routine injuries. Those individuals returned to duty,” Cooper said.

A third service member, injured on a ship at sea, was medically evacuated to a hospital in Israel, he said. A US defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the individual was in critical condition.

US lawmakers have voiced concern about the risks to positioning US troops off the coast of Gaza. Biden has said they will not step foot in the war-torn city itself.

The Pentagon has said it will prioritize the safety of US military personnel.

“We’re clear eyed and we continue to look at force protection all day, every day and as it stands now we assess the operations can continue,” Cooper said.

Social media images showed a US air defense system, known as the Counter Rockets, Artillery and Mortars (CRAM), firing into the sky while on the pier. US officials said troops were testing the system.

Daniel Dieckhaus of the US Agency for International Development said that since the pier opened last week, about 506 metric tons of aid had been handed off to humanitarian groups inside Gaza. About a third of that has not yet been distributed but would be soon, he said.


Massive cradle of baby stars revealed in new space telescope images

Massive cradle of baby stars revealed in new space telescope images
Updated 46 min 30 sec ago
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Massive cradle of baby stars revealed in new space telescope images

Massive cradle of baby stars revealed in new space telescope images
  • The European Space Agency released the photos from the Euclid observatory on Thursday
  • Euclid will spend the next several years observing billions of galaxies covering more than one-third of the sky

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: A massive cradle of baby stars has been observed in new detail by a European space telescope, adding to its celestial collection of images.

The European Space Agency released the photos from the Euclid observatory on Thursday.

They were taken following the telescope’s Florida launch last year as a warm-up act to its main job currently underway: surveying the so-called dark universe.

From its perch 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) from Earth, Euclid will spend the next several years observing billions of galaxies covering more than one-third of the sky.

The shape and size of all these galaxies can help scientists understand the mysterious dark energy and dark matter that make up most of the universe.

“Euclid is at the very beginning of its exciting journey to map the structure of the universe,” the space agency’s director general, Josef Aschbacher, said in a statement.

Among the newly released pictures is one of an enormous cradle of baby stars some 1,300 light-years away known as Messier 78. A light-year is 5.8 trillion miles. Euclid’s infrared camera peered through the dust enveloping the stellar nursery, revealing new regions of star formation, according to ESA.


HPV vaccines prevent cancer in men as well as women, new research suggests

HPV vaccines prevent cancer in men as well as women, new research suggests
Updated 59 min 4 sec ago
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HPV vaccines prevent cancer in men as well as women, new research suggests

HPV vaccines prevent cancer in men as well as women, new research suggests
  • For the study, researchers compared 3.4 million people of similar ages — half vaccinated versus half unvaccinated — in a large health care dataset
  • Research suggests vaccinated men have fewer cancers of the mouth and throat — twice as common in men than in women — compared to those who didn’t get the shots

New research suggests the HPV vaccine is preventing cancer in men, as well as in women, but fewer boys than girls are getting the shots in the United States.

The HPV vaccine was developed to prevent cervical cancer in women and experts give it credit, along with screening, for lowering cervical cancer rates. Evidence that the shots are preventing HPV-related cancers in men has been slower to emerge, but the new research suggests vaccinated men have fewer cancers of the mouth and throat compared to those who didn’t get the shots. These cancers are more than twice as common in men than in women.
For the study, researchers compared 3.4 million people of similar ages — half vaccinated versus half unvaccinated — in a large health care dataset.As expected, vaccinated women had a lower risk of developing cervical cancer within at least five years of getting the shots. For men, there were benefits too. Vaccinated men had a lower risk of developing any HPV-related cancer, such as cancers of the anus, penis and mouth and throat.
These cancers take years to develop so the numbers were low: There were 57 HPV-related cancers among the unvaccinated men — mostly head and neck cancers — compared to 26 among the men who had the HPV vaccine.
“We think the maximum benefit from the vaccine will actually happen in the next two or three decades,” said study co-author Dr. Joseph Curry, a head and neck surgeon at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center in Philadelphia. “What we’re showing here is an early wave of effect.”
Results of the study and a second were released Thursday by the American Society of Clinical Oncology and will be discussed next month at its annual meeting in Chicago. The second study shows vaccination rates rising but males lag behind females in getting the HPV shots.
HPV, or human papillomavirus, is very common and is spread through sex. Most HPV infections cause no symptoms and clear up without treatment. Others develop into cancer, about 37,000 cases a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the US, the HPV vaccine has been recommended since 2006 for girls at age 11 or 12, and since 2011 for boys the same age. Catch-up shots are recommended for anyone through age 26 who hasn’t been vaccinated.
In the second study, researchers looked at self- and parent-reported HPV vaccination rates in preteens and young adults in a large government survey. From 2011 to 2020, vaccination rates rose from 38 percent to 49 percent among females, and among males from 8 percent to 36 percent.
“HPV vaccine uptake among young males increased by more than fourfold over the last decade, though vaccination rates among young males still fall behind females,” said study co-author Dr. Danh Nguyen at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
Parents of boys, as well as girls, should know that HPV vaccines lower cancer risk, said Jasmin Tiro of the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center who was not involved in the research. And young men who haven’t been vaccinated can still get the shots.
“It’s really important that teenagers get exposed to the vaccine before they’re exposed to the virus,” she said.