As the world celebrates the International Day for Biodiversity under the theme “From Agreement to Action: Build Back Biodiversity,” it is essential to recognise the significant conservation efforts taking place in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The UAE, committed to preserving its unique ecosystems and species, has undertaken various initiatives to protect and restore biodiversity. This article highlights the strides made by the UAE in conserving its natural heritage and emphasises the importance of continued action in building back biodiversity.
Protected Areas and National Parks:
The UAE has established a network of protected areas and national parks to safeguard its diverse ecosystems and species. These protected areas, such as the Jebel Hafeet National Park and the Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve, serve as vital havens for endangered species and contribute to the overall conservation of biodiversity.
Species Conservation Programs:
To address the conservation needs of specific species, the UAE has implemented targeted conservation programs. The Arabian Oryx, a symbol of the country’s wildlife conservation efforts, has been successfully reintroduced into the wild through captive breeding and reintroduction programs. Similar programs are underway for other threatened species, including the hawksbill turtle and the Arabian leopard.
Recognising the importance of restoring degraded habitats, the UAE has undertaken extensive habitat restoration projects through tree planting activities. Mangrove rehabilitation programs along the coast have been successful in restoring these vital ecosystems and supporting the diverse range of species that depend on them. Efforts to restore coral reefs and protect seagrass meadows have also been initiated, emphasizing the restoration of critical marine habitats. In 2015, mangroves occupied an estimated 14,117 hectares in scattered locations throughout the emirate. During the past 10 years, at least 15 million young mangroves have been planted along the coast of Abu Dhabi.
Sustainable Development and Land-use Planning:
The UAE has integrated sustainable development principles into its land-use planning to minimise the impact on natural habitats and biodiversity. Guidelines and regulations are in place to ensure responsible construction practices, protected area management, and conservation-oriented urban planning. These measures strive to strike a balance between development and conservation.
Public Awareness and Education:
Raising public awareness about the importance of biodiversity conservation is essential for long-term success. The UAE has focused on educating its citizens and residents about the value of biodiversity through campaigns, educational programs, and nature-based activities. By fostering a sense of environmental stewardship, the UAE aims to build a society that actively participates in the protection of its natural heritage.
Recognising that biodiversity conservation is a global endeavour, the UAE actively participates in international collaborations and agreements. The country works closely with international organisations and partners to share knowledge, best practices, and scientific research, fostering a collective effort to address global biodiversity challenges.
To transform our relationship effectively and continuously with nature and transition to a more equitable and sustainable future in which activities that result in ecosystem loss and degradation are a thing of the past, we need to focus and enhance on the following actions:
- Community engagement: Involving local communities in the planning, implementation, and maintenance of reforestation and restoration projects can help to build ownership and pride in the project, and increase the likelihood that it will be sustained over the long term. This can be done through community meetings, workshops, or other forms of outreach and engagement.
- Education and awareness: Providing education and awareness-raising activities such as tree planting can help to educate the community about the importance of reforestation and restoration and the benefits they provide, such as improving air and water quality, conserving biodiversity, and fighting climate change.
- Job creation: Conservation, reforestation and restoration projects can create jobs for local people, such as in tree planting, maintenance, and monitoring, providing a source of income for people in the area.
- Partnership and collaboration: fostering partnerships and collaborations with other organisations, such as government agencies, non-governmental organisations, and private sector companies, can help to leverage resources and expertise to increase the impact of reforestation and restoration projects. While encouraging and supporting local tree planting programs such as the Give A Ghaf planting program and mangrove restoration projects.
- Emphasising on Native Species: Opting for planting native species such as Ghaf and mangrove trees can increase the chances of survival of the tree and also increase the ecological benefit, as well as providing a sense of cultural heritage and pride.
- Sustainable Harvesting: Implementing sustainable harvesting practices can provide an additional source of income for local communities and help to ensure that reforestation and restoration projects are economically viable over the long term.
- Monitoring and Evaluation: Regular monitoring and evaluation of reforestation and restoration projects can help to ensure that they are achieving their desired outcomes and make adjustments as needed.
Recognising the urgent need for global action, new international targets for nature were established in December 2022 under the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. These targets stress the importance of protecting and restoring 30% of the world’s marine and coastal ecosystems by 2030, along with ensuring sustainable utilization of marine biodiversity. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals further emphasize the criticality of safeguarding and sustainably managing ocean ecosystems to secure a prosperous future for both humanity and the planet.
Today the UAE’s commitment to building back biodiversity through concrete conservation actions stands as an example for the world. Through the establishment of protected areas, species conservation programs, habitat restoration initiatives, sustainable development practices, public awareness campaigns, and international collaborations, the UAE has made significant strides in conserving its natural heritage. However, the journey is far from over.
Continued efforts and collective action are crucial to ensure the sustainable future of biodiversity. By integrating conservation into every aspect of development, engaging communities, and upholding international commitments, the UAE can play a vital role in global biodiversity conservation efforts and inspire others to follow suit. Let us celebrate the UAE’s achievements and recommit ourselves to the urgent task of preserving and restoring biodiversity for the benefit of present and future generations.