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Abu Dhabi’s natural reserves: A bounty of biodiversity

Abu Dhabi’s natural reserves: A bounty of biodiversity
16 Nov 2023 09:17

Ehab Al Refai (Al Dhafra Region)

The plethora of natural flora and fauna of Abu Dhabi’s Al Dhafra region constitutes a critical component in biodiversity conservation efforts, prompting the decision to establish the emiate’s largest two marine reserves, Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve and Al Yasat Marine Protected Area, in the region. 
An additional eight terrestrial reserves, totalling 4311 square kilometres, add to the marines’ combined total of 6511 square kilometres.

Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve itself extends over 4255 square kilometres, and provides an ideal picture of the country’s marine and coastal environment. The reserve is rich in biodiversity, supported by marine and coastal habitats, and is home to the world’s second-largest gathering of dugongs. In 2007, Marawah joined the UNESCO Global Network of Biosphere Reserves in 2007.

Distinguished by its historical and cultural significance alongside its environmental importance, Al Yasat measures in at around 2256 square kilometres. Al Yasat’s islands are surrounded by coral reefs, which constitute an important habitat for many marine creatures.
Of the region’s terrestrial reserves, Qasr Al Sarab Reserve is notable for the Arabian Oryxes that roam freely over the reserve’s 304.1 square kilometres. Houbara Reserve, located in the Baynounah area of Al Dhafra, hosts the largest programmes for the reintroduction of the Houbara in the region, and covers an area of 2492 square kilometres.

Al Dubsah Reserve’s 212 square kilometres offer an ideal location to view plant species local to western Abu Dhabi. Over 75% of the the 77 square kilometres of Bad’ea Hazaa Reserve, another of Al Dhafra’s terrestrial reserves, consists of forests. Barqah Falcons Reserve, another important environmental area, is an important for the breeding of Houbara, and covers 79 square kilometres.

Abu Dhabi Emirate is a leader at the national and regional levels in establishing and managing natural reserves as an effective tool for protecting biodiversity. The emirate encompasses 14 terrestrial reserves, representing 17% of the emirate’s land area, and six marine reserves, representing 14% of the total marine environment, all of which constitute the Sheikh Zayed Protected Areas Network. 

The Sheikh Zayed Protected Areas Network in Abu Dhabi reflects the UAE’s respect for the legacy of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, in appreciation of his efforts to protect the environment and biodiversity, both nationally and internationally, as well as his widely acclaimed contributions to wildlife conservation and natural heritage.

The network consists of 20 natural reserves, and encompasses some Abu Dhabi’s best and most important terrestrial and marine habitats, representing a cornerstone for protecting biodiversity, ecosystem conservation, and natural and cultural heritage.

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