MAIN PHYTOGENETIC RESOURCES OF THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES AND THE MAIN THREATS
In principle, the country’s hot, dry climate limits the extent of its biodiversity. However, being a meeting-point between the Indo-Asian and African and European regions, it has a relatively rich fauna, with 49 species of mammal, 382 of birds and amphibians and 67 species of identified reptiles. No specific data have been found on plant biodiversity.
The shortage of arable land (0.77% of the surface area) seriously limits the agricultural biodiversity, which has to cope with many challenges: intense heat, periodic locust swarms, and a limited supply of water. The drive to increase the cultivated surface area has led to fast depletion of underground aquifers, and their consequent salinisation in some areas. As a result, some farms have had to give up farming. Desertification is a growing problem, and oil slicks along the coast are seriously contaminating certain areas.
STATUS OF IN-SITU AND EX-SITU CONSERVATION
The main objective of the United Arab Emirates’ National Strategy for Biodiversity and Plan of Action is to find out the underlying causes of the country’s environmental problems: desertification, salinisation, loss of biodiversity, and the main economic and social impacts. This strategy includes campaigns to increase public awareness, the establishment of a national strategy to rationalise the use of certain resources (water, farming land and pastures) and the development of an institutional and legal context to protect endangered areas. The need is becoming clear for a germplasm bank for wild and cultivated flora and fauna.
The main objectives identified in the Strategy for the conservation of biodiversity in the United Arab Emirates are:
- Conservation of endangered and/or fragile ecosystems (coral reefs, arid zones, rocky beaches, wetlands).
- Focus on a local and regional level on species in danger of extinction (turtles, vultures, marine birds, invertebrates, whales and sharks).
- Prevention of the introduction of exotic species, especially in agriculture. A large-scale project has been set up for this purpose in connection with the Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency (ERWDA).
The United Arab Emirates have established 60 protected areas: 38 on land, 21 marine and coastal. They cover a surface area of 6,174 km², that is, 6% of the country’s surface area. There are also 9 public forestry reserves and 10 private ones. Marawah marine reserve has a surface area of 4,225 km².
The UAE Ministry of Agriculture is promoting the adoption of projects for training and support for native people and local communities in connection with the ICBA (International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture) and the University of the United Arab Emirates (Department of Agriculture), aiming to evaluate the knowledge, innovations and practices adopted by native and local farmers and communities and contribute to maintaining agricultural biodiversity and agricultural ecosystems for the production of food and for the country’s food safety.
There are also projects under way on the use of medicinal plants.
Centers of plant diversity
- Al Ain Wildlife Park
- Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre
- Natural History Museum and Desert Park
- Sharjah Botanical Gardens
- Raffles Botanic Garden