Abu Dhabi, 16 May 2023: The Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) has successfully completed its assessment of Abu Dhabi’s terrestrial and marine ecosystems. The Abu Dhabi Red List of Ecosystems, part of EAD’s Abu Dhabi Assessment Project, is the first such assessment of ecosystems in the region.
Her Excellency Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, EAD’s Secretary General, said: “Besides being the first in the region, the Abu Dhabi Red List of Ecosystems is an excellent example of collaboration with global partners in developing and promoting the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) programme and its knowledge products.
“The Abu Dhabi Red List of Ecosystems will support our efforts to effectively protect threatened habitats and ecosystem in the emirate by including priority threatened ecosystems within our plans to expand our protected areas network. This will further strengthen our efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts, especially as the UAE prepares to host COP28 later this year,” said Dr. Dhaheri.
She further elaborated: “The list will be vital for development of the emirate of Abu Dhabi as it will help with urban planning, land use and infrastructure projects whereby we will be helping encourage the growth of Abu Dhabi without compromising on the conservation of the environment and the preservation of our ecosystems.”
Dr. Dhaheri further stated: “The Abu Dhabi Red List of Ecosystems will be published as an IUCN document and will be disseminated across the globe, highlighting Abu Dhabi’s efforts to apply internationally-benchmarked processes at a local level to protect our biodiversity.”
IUCN is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organisation, with members and volunteers spanning 185 countries. Its six Commissions focus on driving change through education and communications, as well as learning and knowledge development around the status and threats to species. EAD is one of the strategic partners of the IUCN, where it joined in 2013 as an official member. In 2020, the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment also joined the IUCN, representing the UAE.
A total of 16 terrestrial and marine ecosystems were assessed, twelve ecosystems were assigned ‘Threatened’ status, two were assessed as ‘Critically Endangered’, five ‘Endangered’, and five were assessed as ‘Vulnerable’. Based on the assessment, there is no collapsed ecosystem within the emirate.
Commenting on the Abu Dhabi Red List of Ecosystems, Ahmed Al Hashmi, Executive Director Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector at EAD said: “Abu Dhabi’s diverse species and ecosystems are exposed to several threats, including development, pollution, and climate change. The Abu Dhabi Red List of Ecosystems will shape understanding around the risks facing each ecosystem, enabling the Agency to effectively establish a representative network of protected areas. The list is not only the first in the region, but is also the first of its kind to include desert ecosystems and apply the assessment criteria to human-made ecosystems.”
“The Abu Dhabi Red List of Ecosystems has been a major learning experience for the EAD team, especially working with the experts from IUCN and Provita in developing conceptual models for ecosystem functioning and identification of threats. The Abu Dhabi Red List of Ecosystems also helped identify data gaps in our understanding and further highlighted the need for long-term time-series data on processes and interactions,” added Al Hashmi.
“The Abu Dhabi Red List of Ecosystems, along with the Abu Dhabi Red List of Species, provides a good understanding of the status of our species and ecosystems and the need for conservation interventions,” said Al Hashemi.
“During the evaluation process, the emirate's ecosystems were classified in accordance with the IUCN’s standards, classifying the degree of threat in order to protect and preserve them, and develop plans to ensure their sustainability.”
Mountains and wadis, coastal plains, mangroves forest, saltmarshes, and coral reef ecosystems are some of the most threatened ecosystems as per the assessment carried out in Abu Dhabi. Many of these ecosystems are already covered under the network of protected areas managed by EAD.
The Agency manages a network of 20 protected areas in Abu Dhabi, which preserve the emirate’s biodiversity, particularly threatened species and ecosystems. The establishment of these areas is linked to extensive monitoring of species and habitats, as well as projects to restore and rehabilitate plants and animal species. The Agency has successfully rehabilitated critical plant species – such as the Al Sarh, Ghaf and Samar trees –in their natural habitats to ensure they remain part of Abu Dhabi’s landscape and cultural heritage. EAD’s efforts have also proven impactful, with additional recoveries of several threatened species – including Arabian Oryx, dugongs, and turtles. Abu Dhabi’s efforts to restore mangroves and coral reefs and protect marine biodiversity have also received international recognition, listed among the Top Ten pioneering restoration efforts globally under the ‘UN Decade on Restoration’.