EAD and UNEP launch IRIS-3 at World Urban Forum with a mission to transform state-of-the-environment reporting towards sustainable development

Abu Dhabi, 2 February 2020: More than one million seeds of native wild plant species are to be scattered across Abu Dhabi by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD). The seeds will be scattered in four different locations within the Emirate, with the aim of rehabilitating natural habitats, supporting seed stock in different types of soils and enhancing plant cover of selected wild plant species in their natural habitat. 

The project is expected to improve Abu Dhabi’s natural habitats, supporting biodiversity by providing shelter and food to vertebrates, birds, small mammals, reptiles and other creatures. It will also increase the stock of seeds in the soil, continuing to improve the vegetation cover for years to come. 

The seeds will be scattered in 100 plots in each of Al Ghada Protected Area, Al Houbara Protected Area in Al Dhafra Region and the Arabian Oryx Protected Area. Seeds will be also scattered along Wadi Turbat in the Jabal Hafit National Park in Al Ain which is in 5 km in length. The plant species include Ghaf, Acacia (Samar), White saxaul (Ghadha), Cornulaca (Al Hath) , Bristle grass (Al Sabt) , Convolvulus ( Hab Al Risha) , Broom bush (Al Markh), Wild drumstick ( Shu’a) and others 

Her Excellency Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, EAD's Secretary General said: “The protection of local wild plant species is an important part of our responsibilities. Abu Dhabi has 60% of the UAE’s total wild plant species and we are committed to protecting these plants in their natural habitats through the "Sheikh Zayed Protected Areas Network". “This network includes 13 Terrestrial reserves, such as Jabal Hafit National Park and Houbara Protected Area, where many types of endangered plants can be found.” 

Al-Dhaheri added: “Native plant species are acclimatized to the local environment and have a great impact on the environment of the regions where they are located. As well as enriching the region’s biological diversity, plants can be used for food, for medical treatment, as well preventing sand encroachment and stabilizing sand dunes. 

“However, we are continuing to face challenges with a decrease in wild plants caused by the destruction of natural habitats through urban development, overgrazing and other non-environmentally friendly practices such as logging and the illegal trade in firewood". HE added 

“We would also urge local authorities and private companies who are collecting seeds to co-ordinate with the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi. Lack of co-ordination risks putting pressure on the targeted species, destroying the plants’ habitat during collection operations and not leaving any stock which plants can use to perform the natural renewal process for themselves. People who do not obtain permission from the agency before collecting seeds risk being held legally accountable” said Dr Al Dhaheri. 

The seeds will be scattered in sites without vegetation, as well as in areas containing some plants to provide the right habitat that can protect plant species when they are germinating. Seeds will be placed in shallow trenches and careful evaluation of the area will take place before and after sowing to measure its impact and the increase in vegetation in the area. 

EAD will scatter filtered seeds, as well as seeds still within the fruit to help preserve the seeds for longer periods. The fruits also play an important role in absorbing moisture from the ground and the atmosphere, which increases the chances of germination for different plants. 

The Agency produces 300,000 shrubs a year at the Baynounah Nursery in Al Dhafra region. These shrubs are used in the agency’s various projects to rehabilitate wild habitats in reserves such as Al Houbara Protected Area. There are stores of seeds for approximately 58 species of local wild plants, the most important of which are Al Khansoor, Little Dwarf Palm, Acacia species, Ghaf, wild strawberry tree, White Saxaul, Wild DrumstickTree, Shu'a, Arta of both types, and others. The agency is working on establishing a central nursery with a production capacity of up to one million shrubs annually, as well as establishing a centre for the genetic resources of local plant species.
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