The secret wonders of biodiversity in the Arabian Gulf deserts, by Dr. Brigitte Howarth

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Dr. Brigitte Howarth, Ecologist and Associate Professor at Zayed University, discusses the secret wonders of biodiversity in the deserts of the Arabian Gulf, where more than 400 previously unknown insects have been documented over the last decade alone, and the untapped entomological potential for further discoveries in the region.

This talk was presented in February 2019 to a local audience at TEDxZayedUniversity, as an independent event.

It would be useful to know which species occurred in an environment, why that environment, or more specifically, ecosystem is being targeted for conservation, who the stakeholders might be that have a vested interest in seeing long-term sustainability of the resources they rely on, but what else?

A very important aspect is the ecology of the ecosystem, or of the species complex the conservation intervention is supposed to support.

Ecology is all about the interactions, understanding who relies on what, and how. This means that if an environment is to be protected or conserved, it is almost a given that we would need to know species assemblages and the nature of their trophic interactions, i.e. how food chains fit together into complex food webs that sustain all organisms in the targeted ecosystem.

One would also need to know what the physical requirements of the different species are. Yet, in the UAE we know very little about the ecology of ecosystems, we are still building baselines, which means that we are still discovering species that are either not recorded from the UAE yet but do exist in the region or occasionally globally, as well as species that have never been seen anywhere in the world, i.e. species that are new to science.

Do we have such species in the UAE? Yes! The video clip explains these ideas in a little more detail, using examples of the insect fauna, as insects sustain so many other organisms, and without them, ecosystems everywhere in the world would collapse.