Climate Challenge — John Burt

A marine biologist, John Burt uses the Arabian Gulf — the world’s warmest sea — as a natural laboratory to understand how marine organisms respond to and cope with extreme environmental conditions and to provide insights into the potential impact of future climate change on marine systems across the tropics.

With projects on corals, coral symbionts, reef fishes, mangroves, and seagrasses, Burt leads a diverse team of researchers, deepening our understanding of the marine biology of the Arabian region, with projects ranging from genomics and molecular ecology to physiology and ecosystem-level processes. In addition, Burt and his team continue to use science to support locally relevant policy, management, and conservation practices.

Most recently, Burt and his team discovered an expanding and intensifying low-oxygen zone in the Arabian Gulf, representing a growing threat to regional fisheries, with this hypoxic zone growing steadily towards the UAE’s offshore fishing grounds. They will continue to study the evolution of this phenomenon, and work with the relevant government agencies to assess this risk going forward as climate change continues to put pressure on the region’s marine systems.

Over the past three decades, we’ve witnessed widespread degradation of coral reefs and other coastal and marine ecosystems around the Arabian region, with climate changerelated marine heat waves being the prime culprit. If we are to conserve these scientifically and economically important natural assets, data-driven research to support policy-making and management is needed to protect and enhance the health of these ecosystems going forward.

John Burt, Associate Professor of Biology