UAE identifies nine key biodiversity areas

The KBAs play a crucial role in contributing to the protection of biodiversity from extinction

by

Angel Tesorero

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Al Yasat Marine Area. Photos: Supplied
Al Yasat Marine Area. Photos: Supplied

Published: Thu 6 Jun 2024, 9:48 PM

Last updated: Sun 9 Jun 2024, 3:38 PM

The UAE has identified nine globally significant key biodiversity areas (KBA) that are home to numerous endangered plants and animals, the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MoCCAE) announced on Thursday.

The nine newly appointed KBAs include the Arabian Oryx Protected Area in Abu Dhabi; Marawah Marine Area in Abu Dhabi; Al Yasat Marine Area in Abu Dhabi; Al Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve in Dubai; Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve; Wadi Al-Helo in Sharjah; Khor Fakan and Shark Island in Sharjah; Wadi Al-Bih in Ras Al Khaimah; and Siniyah Island and Khor Al Beidah in Umm Al Quwain


According to MoCCAE, these areas play a crucial role in contributing to the protection of biodiversity from extinction and maintaining its stability.

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“These sites provide a safe environment for many plant and animal species and support ecological balance by sustaining ecosystems and providing essential natural resources. They offer natural environmental conservation such as air and water purification, soil quality improvement, carbon storage, and serve as a genetic resource for plants and animals,” the ministry noted.

Two of the KBAs have been identified for the Arabian Gazelle, Arabian Sand Gazelle, and Arabian Oryx; while two others were identified as the first KBAs for Dugong or ‘sea cow’ in the Middle East.

The UAE is home to the largest number of Arabian Oryx in the world after being on the brink of extinction in the 1970s. They are found in both Al Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve in Dubai and the Arabian Oryx Protected Area in Abu Dhabi.

The UAE also hosts the second largest gathering of sea cows in the world, found in both Al Yasat Marine and Marawah Marine areas.

Arabian Oryx
Arabian Oryx

Arabian Oryx Conservation Area in Umm Al Zumul, Abu Dhabi

There are about 835 Arabian Oryx that roam freely in the area. With a global population estimated at 2,700 to 3,070 mature individuals, the Arabian Oryx Conservation Area has one of the world's largest free-roaming wild populations of the species.

Socotra Cormorants
Socotra Cormorants

Marawah Marine Area, Abu Dhabi

This KBA hosts a breeding population of about 20,000 mature individuals or 10,000 pairs of the globally threatened Socotra Cormorant Phalacrocorax nigrogularis,

Al Yasat Marine Area

This KBA has a breeding population of 223 to 347 pairs of Dugongs. There is also a presence of Socotra Cormorants.

Al Marmoom Conservation Reserve, Dubai

This site has been selected as a KBA due to the presence of three important species: Arabian sand gazelle (Gazella marica), Arabian mountain gazelle (Gazella Arabica), and Arabian oryx (Orys leucoryx) that roam freely here. It hosts up to 38.46 per cent and 21 per cent of the global population of the Arabian sand gazelle and Arabian mountain gazelle, respectively.

Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve
Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve

Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve

This site has been selected due to the presence of two important species: Arabian sand gazelle and the Arabian mountain gazelle. It hosts up to 9.13 per cent and 12.2 per ent of the global population of the Arabian sand gazelle and Arabian mountain gazelle, respectively.

Wadi Al-Helo – Sharjah

Selected as a KBA due to the presence Margarita’s Leaf-toed Gecko (Asaccus margaritae), a newly discovered species that was documented for the first time in 2016, and is only found in the UAE and Oman.

Khor Fakkan and Shark Island – Sharjah
Khor Fakkan and Shark Island – Sharjah

Khor Fakkan and Shark Island – Sharjah

The site is protected due to the presence of Emirati Leaf-toed Gecko (Asaccus caudivolvulus), which is one of the endemic species in the UAE and is a critically endangered species.

Wadi Al Baih, Ras Al Khaimah
Wadi Al Baih, Ras Al Khaimah

Wadi Al Baih, Ras Al Khaimah

Ruus al Jibal Fan-footed gecko (Ptyodactylus ruusaljibalicus), with an estimated population of 360 in the Hajar Mountains, are found here.

Siniyah and Khor Al Beidah Island, Umm al Quwain
Siniyah and Khor Al Beidah Island, Umm al Quwain

Siniyah and Khor Al Beidah Island, Umm al Quwain

This site is preserved due to the presence of Socotra Cormorant. The number of breeding birds recorded on the site is between 26,000 and 41,000 birds (16,750 pairs), representing 15.22% of the global population of this species.

For future generations

MoCCAE Minister Dr Amna bint Abdullah Al Dahak said: “The designation of nine globally significant key biodiversity areas in the UAE is the result of the nation's initiatives during the Year of Sustainability and its commitment to biodiversity conservation and nature protection.

“Such endeavours contribute to the development of sustainable societies and will enable future generations to understand the importance of nature in our lives,” she added.

The designation of the nine KBAs was completed last year. These sites have been officially published on the World Database of Key Biodiversity Areas.

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