Extinct mangrove species successfully replanted in UAE

August 14th, 2008 - 10:34 am ICT by IANS  

Abu Dhabi, Aug 14 (IANS) Ecologists in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have successfully replanted a species of mangrove a century after it had gone extinct from this Gulf nation’s coastal waters. The species, rhizophora mucronata, has even started flowering after the replantation programme carried out in a project initiated by the UAE’s Department of President’s Affairs in coordination with Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD), the state-run Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported.

“Thanks to the cooperation and assistance from EAD, this (successful replantation) achievement has become possible,” the report quoted Mubarak Saad Al Ahbabi, director of the Department of the President’s Affairs, as saying.

“Without their support, it would probably not have been possible to achieve this historical work,” he added.

Mangroves are trees and shrubs that generally grow in saline coastal habitats in the tropics and subtropics.

According to Al Ahbabi, the Arabian Gulf has a strong historical linkage with mangroves or Al Qurm as these are locally known.

“They are unique and precious ecosystems in the UAE, representing extremes in both environmental and geographical distribution of mangroves on the global scale,” he said.

In the UAE, mangroves occur in patches along the coast, occupying an area of about 3,000 hectares or only 0.0350 percent of the surface area of the country.

These are therefore extremely precious resources. Avicennia marina is the only single mangrove species growing naturally in the UAE.

According to historical records, the rhizophora mucronata species once grew extensively along the UAE coast but was lost around 100 years ago probably due to over-exploitation.

Today, this species is once again growing vigorously in the UAE coastal waters and has even started flowering thanks to the ‘Mangrove Ecosystem Research and Development Project’ launched by the Department of President’s Affairs and EAD.

EAD is a governmental agency that was established in 1996 with the overall function of protecting and conserving the environment as well as promoting sustainable development in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, UAE’s capital.

Al Ahbabi said the project aimed at developing appropriate nursery and plantation techniques to reintroduce rhizophora mucronata back into the waters of the UAE.

Rhizophora mucronata seeds were procured from Pakistan with the aim of initiating a comprehensive research and development programme.

After a series of experiments and a lot of hard work in the laboratory, nursery and field, successful nursery and field plantation techniques were developed to establish nurseries of rhizophora mucronata at the island of Ras Ghanada in the Abu Dhabi emirate, Al Ahbabi said.

Today, the species has completely adapted to the local natural environmental conditions, withstanding high seawater salinity - over 45,000 parts per million (ppm) - and high temperatures.

According to Al Ahbabi, what has been most encouraging was the fact that the plants have started flowering. Many plants began flowering after the age of four to five years.

Ecologists now expect that plenty of the first generation local seed will be available for further new plantations. This seed will be genetically more adaptable to the local environmental conditions.

Mangroves are of high importance for coastal greening, coastline protection and habitat restoration. These provide a sanctuary and breeding habitat for various bird and marine fauna and have a high aesthetic value for developing eco-tourism, especially in the hyper arid coastal areas where few trees can survive and flourish.

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