Dubai: A wildlife sanctuary along the coastline of Jebel Ali has become the latest mangrove forest in Dubai that will help protect and host endangered marine species.
Hundreds of saplings were planted at Dubai Mangrove Forest located at Jebel Ali Wildlife Sanctuary on Monday afternoon. Major Ali Saqer Sultan Alsuwaidi, president of Emirates Marine Environmental Group (EMEG), told Gulf News he started planting mangroves in the beach area, used as a breeding ground hawksbill and green turtles, over six years ago. “Now there are around 500 fully-grown mangroves along the coastline,” said Major Ali, adding: “We are targeting to have one million saplings planted this year that can go up to 3 million saplings in the next four to five years.”
Major Alsuwaidi said the nature reserve, situated near the Dubai-Abu Dhabi border, has a total land area of 15 square km, including 6 square km of wetland. Mangroves that grow along the salty coastline not only protect the area against erosion but are also vital in promoting biodiversity. In the UAE, mangroves that grow in sabkha (mudflat or salt flat) environments protect the feeding and breeding grounds for crabs, marine reptiles and birds. They are also host to algae, barnacles, oysters, sponges and bryozoans while shrimps and mud lobsters use the muddy bottoms as their home and mangrove crabs munch on the mangrove leaves. Mangroves also capture three to five times more carbon dioxide than trees found on land.
Decisive environmental action
“The P&G Dubai Mangrove Forest is a decisive action towards earth restoration by creating a forest in the desert coastline of the UAE,” noted EMEG and consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble, that has a global initiative called ForestsforGood. “The sanctuary is a UN protected reserve, included in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance. The initiative is in line with the Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan that maps out a comprehensive future map for sustainable urban development in the city,” they added.
In a statement sent to Gulf News, Hiba Al Shehhi, acting director of the Biodiversity Department at the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE), said: “On behalf of MOCCAE, I would like to extend our sincere appreciation to EMEG for launching this exemplary initiative that aligns with our efforts in the field of mangrove conservation. We also thank P&G for sponsoring the Dubai Mangrove Forest. As part of its second Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement, the UAE has pledged to plant 30 million mangrove seedlings by 2030, and this project will make a significant contribution towards achieving this target. The Ministry works closely with NGOs and the private sector to fulfil the country’s commitment to safeguarding the sustainability of its blue carbon ecosystems.”
* Mangroves are mainly found in the UAE’s sabkha environments. Sabkha is a coastal, supratidal mudflat or sandflat where saline minerals accumulate as a result of semiarid to arid climate. Sabkhas are coastal plains just above normal high-tide level.
* Avicennia marina grow as a shrub or tree to a height of 3-10 metres or up to 14m in tropical regions. They have multiple branches and smooth light-grey bark made up of thin, stiff, brittle flakes. The leaves of full-grown mangroves are thick (5 to 8cm) and silvery-white or grey in colour. The species can tolerate high salinity by excreting salts through its leaves.
* Instead of going down, the roots go up — these are called aerial roots — to allow the plant to absorb oxygen, which is deficient in its habitat. These roots also anchor the plant during the frequent inundation of seawater in the soft substrate of tidal systems. The grey mangrove can experience stunted growth in water conditions that are too saline, but thrive to their full height in waters where both salt and fresh water are present.
Major Alsuwaidi added: “Nature itself can help us solve up to one-third of climate change. The aim of the Dubai Mangrove Forest is to help balance out Dubai’s cosmopolitan impact in agreement with Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan, which aims to expand green spaces focused on enhancing the population’s well-being. Dubai Mangrove Forest will not only be used for foresting but also for animal rescue and species preservation.” Monitor mangrove via app
Visitors and residents are invited to plant saplings at Dubai Mangrove Forest and they can monitor their growth through an app. P&G said it has partnered with Hong Kong-based EcoMatcher for the initiative. “Using blockchain technology to ensure traceability, the aim of the program is to offer full transparency with tree-planting projects, allowing each individual to view their trees that have been planted through the EcoMatcher website in line with P&G’s mission to ensure sustainable growth and accountability,” the company noted.
The mini-cluster of mangroves within the sanctuary will soon become a forest. Omar Channawi, CEO of P&G Middle East, East & West Africa and General Export Markets, said: “P&G intends to plant new mangroves on the Jebel Ali site and also adopt some mangroves that are older (four or five years old) to maximise the future carbon sequestration and offsetting potential.”
“We are thrilled to see P&G’s Dubai Mangrove Forest project come to life here in the UAE, our first forest as part of P&G ForestsforGood Programme. Regionally, this campaign is focused on helping bring nature back to life, and we felt it particularly significant for the regeneration to take place in the desert,” he added.