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United Arab Emirates - Country Profile

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Status and Trends of Biodiversity

Overview

UAE’s particular environment – hot and dry – limits greatly the country’s biodiversity richness. But being a meeting point between the Indo-Asian and the Afro-European regions, it has a relatively rich fauna, with 49 mammal species, 382 bird species and 67 amphibian and reptile species identified. Invertebrates are very prolific in the tidal rocky zone and especially creeks. 2299 species have been identified after a partial study. There are 29 mammal species – 3 endangered, 34 breeding bird species – 8 endangered, 36 reptile species -1 endangered, 2 amphibian species and 41 fish species 1-endangered). Lack of arable land (0.77% of surface) severely limits agrobiodiversity. The extensive production of dates (permanent crops represent 2.27% of land surface) and other commodities faces many challenges: intense heat, periodic locust swarms, and limited water supplies. The drive to increase the area under cultivation has resulted in the rapid depletion of underground aquifers, resulting in precipitous drops in water tables and serious increases in soil and water salinity in some areas. As a result, several farms have been forced to cease production. Desertification is a growing problem, and oil spills, especially along the coast, severely pollutes some areas.

National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan

Major features of National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan

It aims at understanding the underlying causes of the country’s environmental problems – desertification, salinization, biodiversity loss, and human economical impacts. This strategy will include public awareness campaigns, the establishment of a national strategy to rationalize the use of some resources (water, agricultural and grazing lands), and the development of adequate human institutional and legal resources. More protected areas should be declared and a gene bank for traditional fauna and flora instituted in conservation areas. Five goals can be identified: biodiversity conservation, fragile ecosystems conservation (coral reefs, drylands, rocky beaches, humid areas, special attention to locally and regionally endangered species (sea turtles, vultures, sea birds, invertebrates, whales and sharks), preventing the introduction of alien species, especially in agriculture. A major project, in conjunction with the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD), has launched and aims at providing researchers, government agencies and the public at large with easily accessible high quality spatial environmental data that will ultimately support sustainable decision and policy making in the UAE and beyond.
 

Implementation of the Convention

Initiatives in Protected Areas

UAE has established 60 protected areas: 38 terrestrial, 21 marine, and 1 coastal including both terrestrial and marine. They cover an area of 6174 km², or 6% of the country surface. There are also 9 man-made forested reserves and 10 private ones. The Marawah Marine protected area covers 4 255 sq. km and is a good in-situ protection reserve for national and regional species. Some measures have been taken to reintroduce some species into their natural habitats, like Marine turtles or Houbara Bustards.

Initiatives for Article 8(j)

UAE (Ministry of Enviroment and Water) is setting up capacity-building projects to support indigenous peoples and local communities, in conjunction with ICBA (International Center for Biosaline Agriculture) and United Arab Emirates University (Department of Agriculture). Assessment of the knowledge, innovations and practices of farmers and indigenous and local communities in sustaining agricultural biodiversity and agro-ecosystem services for food production and food security is underway. Limited studies on traditional medicinal plants knowledge and use are under way.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme