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Thanks to mangrove rehabilitation projects, Abu Dhabi has witnessed an increase in the size of its mangrove areas. Image Credit: WAM

Abu Dhabi: Planting mangroves using drones?

That's what the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) aims to do as it unveiled the “Ghars Al Emarat” (UAE Planting Initiative), a programme initiated in conjunction with the Abu Dhabi Climate Change Strategy, Abu Dhabi Mangrove Initiative, and the UAE’s hosting of the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28).

During the upcoming final quarter of this year, mangroves will be strategically planted in the most optimal coastal habitats for their growth. These carefully chosen locations include the Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve, Al Mirfa City, and Jubail Island, where natural mangrove ecosystems already thrive.

This timeframe aligns with the ideal season for planting this species, ensuring the best conditions for their successful establishment.

Mangrove planting via drone

The “Ghars Al Emarat” initiative introduces a novel approach to mangrove planting, utilising innovative methods such as drone dispersal.

For each attendee at the conference, approximately 10 mangrove trees will be planted, contributing to the preservation and expansion of this vital ecosystem.

Under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler’s Representative in Al Dhafra Region and Chairman of the EAD’s Board of Directors, this initiative aligns with the UAE Year of Sustainability in 2023.

Mangroves will be planted during the last quarter of this year, which is the best time for planting this species, within the most suitable coastal environments for growth, such as the Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve, Al Mirfa City and Jubail Island, where natural mangroves already exist.

This initiative also supports the goals of the Abu Dhabi Mangrove Initiative, provides a platform for developing innovative solutions for conserving and restoring mangroves, helps mitigate the effects of climate change, and raises awareness of their importance.

Climate action

Dr. Sheikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Secretary-General of EAD, said: “This initiative aims to support Goal 13 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals related to ‘climate action’, which calls for urgent measures to be taken to address climate change and its impacts. It also supports national initiatives, including the UAE Net Zero by 2050 climate neutrality strategic initiative, which aligns with the UAE’s goal of planting 100 million mangroves by 2030.”

“This initiative also highlights the UAE’s commitment to achieving climate neutrality and promoting nature-based solutions to reduce the effects and adapt to climate change and reduce the environmental footprint of conference visitors, at the rate of absorbing one tonne of carbon for every 5,000 mangrove trees,” Dr. Shaikha added.

Razan Al Mubarak, UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for COP28, said: “Building a resilient, net-zero future depends on halting nature loss and restoring our natural ecosystems. Nature-based solutions, including those involving mangroves, have the potential to supply over a third of our climate mitigation needs and build resilience to the effects of climate change. I welcome this EAD-led initiative, which both raises awareness and takes action to restore and protect mangroves in the UAE.”

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Role of mangroves 

Mangroves are among the most productive coastal ecosystems in the world and are, therefore, extremely important as they provide various ecological and economic services. Mangroves help mitigate the effects of climate change, as they absorb greenhouse gases and can store and sequester carbon.

In Abu Dhabi, the trees support a wide range of biodiversity that live in them.

Mangroves also play an essential role in protecting neighbouring habitats such as seagrass beds and coral reefs from sedimentation, as well as helping to improve water quality and supporting ecotourism activities.

Abu Dhabi hosts 85 percent of the UAE’s mangroves, and as part of its strategy, the Agency is working to study and preserve these important coastal habitats. Thanks to mangrove rehabilitation projects, Abu Dhabi has witnessed an increase in the size of its mangrove areas.

Efforts to restore mangroves in the UAE date back to the 1970s, when the late Sheikh Zayed launched extensive afforestation programmes to plant mangroves on the country’s beaches.

Since its inception, EAD has continued Sheikh Zayed’s efforts via a range of afforestation programmes in cooperation with its concerned partners, which include the planting of 40 million mangroves since restoration efforts began, on islands and in various regions, including Saadiyat, Jubail, Yas, Hudayriat, Abu Al-Abyad and Al Dhanna.