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Quest for conservation of biodiversity
BY SHAMILA JAMALUDDIN September 15, 2017
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ABU DHABI: “We’re Diversity We’re Conservation” reads a poster board at the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD)’s stand at the ongoing Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition (Adihex).

“I am one great survivor! Fierce Temperatures, Searing Winds, High Rates of Water Loss...I Tolerate Them All,” says the tree of the dunes – the Ghaf. “I am possibly the sturdiest plant of the harsh desert in the UAE, you can see me growing on low sand dunes, undulating sand sheets and along margins of gravel plains mostly in the emirates of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah,” says the desert hero the wild ghaf.

At the ongoing Adihex, which runs until Sept.16 at Adnec, the EAD stand hosts tours in three different habitats coral reef, desert and mountain habitat which are the key critical habitats in Abu Dhabi.

At the marine habitat section, visitors will walk through a large pink coral reef to learn of the vital role corals play in supporting biodiversity in the marine environment. In Abu Dhabi alone there are thirty-four different species of hard corals.

In the desert habitat section, visitors will learn about the Ghaf tree. In the mountain habitat of Jebel Hafeet, visitors will discover the magnificence of this ecosystem and the species that call it home. Jebel Hafeet is a unique mountain system with fabulous ecological, archaeological and cultural values.

The second highest mountain in the UAE is also considered to be one of the most important areas in the emirate of Abu Dhabi for terrestrial biodiversity.

EAD surveys have already discovered over 180 species of native plants as well as critically threatened mammals and bird life.


Dr. Shaikha, Executive Director, Terrestrial & Marine Biodiversity Sector, EAD said that one of the main highlights of the EAD stand at Adihex 2017 is coral reef, a critical marine habitat that are often referred to as the “rainforests of the sea” due to the great diversity of marine life that they support.

“In Abu Dhabi alone, we have thirty-four recorded species of corals which cover approximately 310 km2 of coral reef habitat, mainly occurring in the shallow waters surrounding islands and along the coastline”.

“Besides providing habitats for numerous species of fish and invertebrates, the coral communities protect coastal areas from storm surge, prevent coastal erosion and support commercial fisheries and recreational activities,” added Dr. Shaikha.

Moreover, the species that are dependent on coral communities include commercially important fish such as the Hamour (Orange-spotted Grouper), Farsh (Painted Sweetlips), Shaari (Spangled Emperor) as well as critically endangered Hawksbill Turtle.

Due to their existence in such a hostile and extreme environment, Abu Dhabi’s reefs provide valuable insights into how corals may adapt to increasing temperatures associated with climate change- source EAD.  Therefore, EAD and New York University – Abu Dhabi (NYU-AD) initiated a coral breeding project to help better understand the spatial and temporal patterns of coral reproduction in the Abu Dhabi Emirate”.

“Currently we have ten monitoring stations that record seawater temperatures and changes in coral cover. In addition to site specific monitoring, EAD’s marine habitat map, has helped to define coral reef areas that are important for conservation. Over 65% of Abu Dhabi’s coral reefs are located within declared Marine Protected Areas (the Al Yasat Marine Protected Area and the Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve),” she added.

“EAD continues to monitor this critical habitat through important initiatives such as establishment of a marine water quality monitoring network; environmental permitting for development projects and a variety of fisheries management regulations designed to reduce the negative impact of fisheries on coral reefs and associated resources”, Dr. Shaikha said.


Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, EAD’s Secretary General said since mankind has long interacted with the environment the need to maintain the delicate balance has become more acute.

This year, EAD’s stand explores the relationship between mankind and our environment.

In addition EAD has carried over the last few years, several research studies on desert, marine, wildlife species, and their habitat with the ultimate objective of developing and conserving them.

“The most recent initiative was the Emirate wide mapping of habitats which was one of its kind to understand the extent and distribution of different habitats, with the idea to ensure important habitats are well protected and information is easily available and integrated in development master plans,” Al Mubarak added.

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