Sharjah’s wetland receives international recognition

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Sharjah’s wetland receives international recognition

SHARJAH — Sharjah’s Al Qaram trees and Al Hafiya Protected Area have received a boost to their status by being added to a network of the world’s most important wetlands.

By Lily B. Libo-on

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Published: Sat 23 Mar 2013, 10:46 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 8:28 AM

The trees, which grow abundantly in the Kalba City forest on the Coast of Oman and Al Hafiya Protected Area, have been added to the so called Ramsar List, as decided by the intergovernmental convention on wetlands, the Ramsar Convention.

Al Hafiya Protected Area. — Supplied photo

The accreditation of Sharjah’s protected area by Ramsar is mainly attributed to the rich environment that enables the reproduction of numerous plants, fish, birds and invertebrates. His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, made Al Hafiya a protected area last July.

In a Press conference recently, Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA) Director-General Hana Al Suwaidi said the expanse and age of the protected area, as compared to the rest of the forests on the eastern coast, played a major role in acquiring the Ramsar status.

She said the Ramsar Convention focused on the methods to use wetlands wisely which would achieve sustainable development all over the world. “The Ramsar Site boundary is the same as the protected area boundary, comprising 1,494 hectares of which marine is 148 hectares, lagoon/estuary 500 hectares and mangrove forests 846 hectares. The highest point in it is 448 metres and the lowest point, two miles away from the sea, is 23 metres.”

Nessrine Alzahlawi, Deputy Advisor for Asia-Oceania, said the addition of Al Hafiya Protected Area and Khor Kalba on the Ramsar List was a clear indication of the commitment of the UAE to the basic principles of the Ramsar Convention as well as its desire to achieve environmental sustainability and to preserve biodiversity. “This is showcased by the efforts of the Ministry of Environment and Water as well as local bodies in their work to protect the environment and wildlife.”

The Ramsar Site includes Khor Kalba mangrove, the only mangroves found in Sharjah and the most extensive mature woodland found in the biogeographic region, and adjacent associated coastal zone habitats of beach, halophytic scrubland and flats to the South of Kalba town and East of Kalba-Oman highway covering an area of 100 square kilometres, the greatest part of which is the mountainous northern part of the Hajar Mountain Range.

“A narrow strip of alluvial plain dominated by Acacia woodland lies between the arid stoney mountains and the littoral zone,” she said. “The highly productive ecosystems are vital for their role in providing breeding, nursery and feeding grounds for several fish, invertebrate and plant species, besides protecting the coastline from storm damage and erosion while trapping sediments washed off the land.”

The acacia savannah at the Al Hafiya Protected Area has been home to a number of characteristically Middle Eastern breeding bird species present within the Ramsar site, including yellow-throated sparrows, blue cheeked bee-eaters, Arabian babblers and striated Scops owls. All live here at densities higher than in almost any other location in the UAE, and none in any other single site support all four of these species at once.

Al Suwaidi said the Ramsar site also appeared in Important Bird Areas in the Middle East, which details those sites which attracted breeding or visiting bird populations. Al Suwaidi also highlighted the fact that the EPAA has found impressive results through land surveys, confirming the return of biodiversity to the area.

The Ramsar Site project will incorporate a learning centre designed to teach people about rare wild animals, including the Arabian wolf, mountain gazelle and Arabian leopard, and a centre which showcases raptors.

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