Abu Dhabi As many as 600 Ghaf trees, the symbol of the Year of Tolerance and 1,000 Markh plants, were planted in Al Faya, 45 minutes away from the capital, top officials from the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD) said on Wednesday.

The trees will provide shelter and habitat for several native and non-native species, some of which are considered endangered globally.

The total number of Ghaf trees in Abu Dhabi exceeds 10 million lately.

To mark the Year of Tolerance, EAD created an ‘Oasis of Tolerance’ in the desert, made up mainly of Ghaf trees it planted alongside a number of diplomatic missions and government partners on Wednesday.

The trees will also serve as a natural windbreaker from active winds in the area, where dust accumulates. Moreover, they will act as a field of mother trees for the EAD to regularly collect seeds from to propagate.

Dr Shaikha Salim Al Dhaheri, Secretary General of the EAD, said: “The Ghaf tree was especially chosen because of its ability to survive our country’s dry desert environment. It also represents a great cultural value in the UAE and is associated with our identity and heritage.”

The ‘Oasis of Tolerance’ celebrates the values of coexistence, harmony and tolerance and celebrates our diverse society that embraces more than 200 nationalities from a wide spectrum of cultures and religions living peacefully in the UAE,” she said.

The trees were brought over from EAD’s native plant nursery in Baynounah, Al Dhafrah.

Dr Al Dhaheri said, “One of the key ways we are helping to protect the Ghaf is by understanding more about the species in order to protect it. This year, we carried out an electronic census and counted 54,000 Ghaf trees. This helped us identify their location and distribution and map them on a first-of-its kind map, which will help conserve the species and help to plan future projects.”

The distribution of natural Ghaf has been linked with rainfall rates, soil and groundwater salinity, and the prevalence of sand dunes,” she said.

The Ghaf has long been protected in the UAE. The late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Founder of the UAE, prohibited the cutting of this tree by law and encouraged its cultivation throughout the country.

In line with his directives at the time, about six million Ghaf trees were planted in forests in Abu Dhabi.

Today, the total number of Ghaf trees in Abu Dhabi exceeds 10 million and they are protected by Federal Law No. 24 of 1999. The 10 million number includes natural and planted trees in forests, farms, and around residential areas.