Beyond mitigating the impact of climate change, mangroves also reduce coastal erosion. These trees cover about 176 square kilometres across Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: WAM

Abu Dhabi: The Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) has completed the planting of 850,000 mangrove trees in the coastal areas of the emirate of Abu Dhabi, as part of an initiative to plant 10 mangrove trees for every visitor to the Conference of the Parties (COP28), which was held in Dubai last year.

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The coastal areas in the emirate of Abu Dhabi are suitable environments for growing mangroves, and they include the Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve, the port city, and Jubail Island. The amount of carbon dioxide that these trees will absorb from the atmosphere is estimated at 170 tonnes annually.

The project is part of the Ghars Al Emarat initiative, launched by EAD, which supports efforts aimed at enhancing biodiversity and contributes to reducing the effects of climate change.

The Agency announced the initiative, implemented under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler’s Representative in Al Dhafra Region and Chairman of Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi’s Board of Directors, on the occasion of the country’s hosting of COP28 UAE.

The initiative pledged to plant 10 mangrove trees for every visitor to the conference, using innovative methods such as drone seeding. The rate of carbon uptake by trees is estimated at 1 tonne per 5,000 mangroves.

Dr Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri

Dr Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Secretary-General, EAD, said: “This initiative comes as a continuation of the efforts initiated by the emirate of Abu Dhabi to restore mangrove trees in the 1970s, under the guidance of [the UAE’s Founding Father], the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, which was an expression of his in-depth knowledge of the local environment and his foresight. This strengthened the emirate’s pioneering role in rehabilitating these important environmental systems.”

Why mangroves?

She explained: “Mangroves are among the most productive coastal ecosystems in the world and are therefore very important because they provide a variety of environmental and economic services. Mangrove trees help mitigate the effects of climate change, absorbing greenhouse gases thanks to their ability to store and sequester carbon. Mangroves can absorb up to four times more carbon than trees in the Amazon rainforest.”

Dr Shaikha said that studies conducted by EAD revealed the ability of mangrove trees in Abu Dhabi to store carbon at a rate of 0.5 tonnes per hectare per year, which is equivalent to 8,750 tonnes at the emirate level, and the energy consumption of 1,000 homes per year.

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The Ghars Al Emarat initiative, created within the framework of the Abu Dhabi Climate Change Strategy, also supports the Abu Dhabi Mangrove Initiative, launched in February 2022, during the meeting between His Highness Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Council, and His Royal Highness Prince William, the Prince of Wales, at Jubail Mangrove Park. It was founded to provide a platform for developing innovative mangrove planting solutions, and contribute to mitigating the effects of climate change, while raising awareness of mangroves’ importance and the necessity of restoring them. The initiative also enhanced the emirate’s position as a leading global centre for mangrove conservation research and innovation.

Ghars Al Emarat also supports the 13th United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) related to Climate Action, which calls for urgent steps to address climate change and adapt to its effects, as well as national initiatives, including the UAE Net Zero by 2050 strategic initiative, which is in line with the UAE’s goal of planting 100 million mangrove trees by 2030.

Mangroves cover about 176 square kilometres across Abu Dhabi, equivalent to 17,600 hectares (11,200 hectares of natural trees and 6,400 hectares of planted trees), with 2,441,600 tonnes of carbon stored by natural mangroves and 676,480 tonnes by planted trees. This means that more than 3 million tonnes of carbon are currently stored by mangroves in Abu Dhabi.

As well as mitigating the impact of climate change, mangroves help adapt to the challenge, stabilising coasts, protecting against the impact of storms, and reducing coastal erosion. These natural systems protect infrastructure and communities located along the coast. By protecting and restoring mangrove ecosystems, EAD strengthens nature’s resilience and reduces the impact of climate change on communities.