ABU DHABI 19 September 2020: The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), has successfully commenced a major rehabilitation project covering a total of 18 hectares in Jebel Hafit National Park by planting local Samar trees (Acacia tortilis) in areas which were environmentally degraded due to overgrazing, tree-cutting and the growth of existing infrastructure projects.
The agency planted a total of 7,500 saplings of Samar trees and 350 other perennial trees, transplanted from areas less suitable for growth.
The project, launched in March 2020, will provide a number of environmental and economic benefits allied with the increase in vegetation cover provided by the Samar trees. The species one of the most important tree species in UAE and – at the same time – is one of the most vulnerable, due to threats from human activities in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, said wam.
Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, EAD’s Secretary-General, said that the important project was launched in response to directions to increase the amount of vegetation cover to help combat desertification. The project will help achieve a balanced local ecosystem, as Samar trees are one of the main species that mitigate the effects of desertification. Additionally, the species is an important element in the mountainous ecosystem due to its high nutritional value for many animal species.
“The Agency’s efforts to combat desertification was made possible by the support and the efforts exerted by the UAE to achieve Goal No. 15 of the Sustainable Development Goals,” she said. “These objectives were set by the United Nations to protect terrestrial ecosystems, to manage forests sustainably, to fight desertification, and to reduce land degradation.”
Halting the loss of biological diversity is in line with the target set by the UAE’s National Strategy to Combat Desertification 2014-2021, she noted.
Dr. Al Dhaheri added, “The UAE is considered one of the leading countries in the field of combating desertification, due to the strong commitments toward sustaining and enhancing vegetation cover and forest areas. Within the Zayed Network for Natural Reserves in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, the government aims to increase the number of reserves and to implement numerous projects and initiatives to plant trees, including palm trees, forest trees and fruit trees.”
“The Agency has implemented many initiatives to rehabilitate natural habitats and enhance vegetation in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi,” she said, referring to a plan to distribute more than one million seeds of local wild plants in natural habitats. The seeds include those from some rare plant species such as: 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 other species.
The initiative is being implemented in 100 plots in a number of protected areas managed by the Agency, with the aim of supporting the seed stock in different types of soil across the Emirate.
Ahmed Al-Hashemi, Acting Executive Director of EAD’s Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector, said, “This 18-month rehabilitation project in Jebel Hafit aims at planting 10,000 Samar trees by the end of the year 2020. The Agency implements rehabilitation processes during specific times of the year to ensure the plants grow in appropriate weather conditions, which enhances the chances of success. Moreover, the seedlings and the mature trees are planted in a random manner to ensure the restoration of the natural conditions of the Jebel Hafit National Park Reserve.”
Al Hashemi said that EAD will be executing the project in three phases. The first involves work to ensure the suitability of the chosen sites, by undertaking necessary landscape restoration and carrying out surveys. The second phase includes the planting of the trees and local saplings in the areas identified by a team of young national technical experts involved in the project. The final phase involves monitoring, with a gradual reduction of artificial irrigation to ensure sustainability.
Samar trees, which are naturally found in mountainous areas with gravel soil and wadis, as well as the Jebel Hafit region, are among the most valuable local trees. Tolerant of drought conditions and of high temperatures, the have comparatively long flowering periods which is essential for honey production. Samar honey is extremely popular in local and international markets.
During the current year, some other endangered and rare wild plants have also been planted in wadis in the Jebel Hafit National Park. Fifty-five seedings of the extremely rare Dwarf Palms, 30 Caralluma and 30 Arabian Moringa plants have been planted.
The agency will continue to maintain the plants until the end of the year. Once they fully established and have adapted to their environment, they will be left to flourish naturally with continuous monitoring from the EAD team.
These rare species were propagated in the EAD nursery located in Al Dhafra region. This nursery specialises in the propagation and conservation of native flora and currently contains approximately more than 60 types of local wild plants.