Dennis Whigham and Candy Feller both noticed the mangroves’ odd shape. “They almost looked like bonsais,” said Whigham. The shrubs had mature trunks, but the shoots were all new. Feller and Whigham are ecologists at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC). To their trained eyes, these trees looked like they were recovering from something like a hurricane. These mangroves survived a different kind of storm: camel grazing.
Saudi Arabia conjures images of the desert, but along the Red Sea coast there are pockets of green dominated by mangroves. Feller and Whigham hunted around for these mangroves during a November visit to the country. They are part of a team of ecologists that’s partnering with the staff of the new King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). The school is located on the Red Sea in city of Thuwal.