The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) has planted 800,000 Avicennia marina mangrove saplings along the coast of Saadiyat and Jubail Islands, with the aim of alleviating the effects of property development on vulnerable coastal habitats.
The planting project, which began in November 2009 and was completed this month, was developed by the EAD and the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) to help reduce the effects of widespread development and mitigate degradation and habitat loss on Saadiyat Island and the nearby Island of Jubail.
The Emirate of Abu Dhabi is rapidly developing and coastal development is on the rise.
Thabit Al Abdessalaam, Director of Biodiversity Management Sector at EAD, says that being proactive and planting 800,000 mangrove saplings will “preserve our emirate’s fragile coastal biodiversity, and preserve a share of our heritage.”
Mangrove tree habitats are some of the world’s most productive and biologically important ecosystems. They protect beaches and coastal areas from erosion caused by the waves and ocean currents, provide vital habitats for numerous different species, and are a source of food, timber and fuel.
However, despite their many benefits to both humans and biodiversity, mangrove forests are declining around the world. This may leave coastal communities much more vulnerable to natural disasters.
Abu Dhabi possesses extensive mangrove areas on its islands and coastal regions, with mangroves currently covering around 72 square kilometres, including areas with sparse patches and mangrove plantations.
Encouraging mangrove reforestation
To protect coastal habitats from unsustainable development and habitat degradation, EAD is actively encouraging new developers to rehabilitate affected areas by undertaking extensive mangrove plantation programmes, under EAD’s supervision.
Saadiyat Island, where some of the planting has been carried out, is expected to be transformed into an international tourist and cultural destination by the Tourism Development and Investment Company by the year 2020. The company is following an active mangrove rehabilitation planting plan that aims at protecting remaining natural mangroves and rehabilitating impacted mangrove habitats along the island’s coastline.
So far, the EAD-ADTA Mangrove Sapling Planting Programme has been a resounding success, with saplings planted last year demonstrating strong and healthy growth rates. Biodiversity in these areas also appears to be flourishing, with bird and gastropod populations in particular benefiting greatly from the new plantations.
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Take a look at some of the amazing wildlife that can be found in mangrove swamps on ARKive’s ‘Jewels of the UAE’ pages.
Helen Roddis, ARKive Species Text Author