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Extinct mangrove species flowers once again in UAE

posted on 14/08/2008: 3582 views



After about 100 years of being lost, the mangrove species Rhizophora mucronata has once again been discovered in UAE waters. The plantations are surviving successfully in the natural environmental conditions and have even begun flowering. Rhizophora mucronata once grew in the UAE but historical records demonstrate that this species probably became extinct due to over-exploitation.

"The Arabian Gulf has a strong historical linkage with Al Qurm (mangroves). They are unique and precious ecosystems in the UAE, representing extremes in both environmental and geographical distribution of mangroves on the global scale," said H.E Mubarak Saad Al Ahbabi, Director of the Department of the President's Affairs.

Al Ahbabi said that the Department, in coordination with the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD), had initiated a Mangrove Ecosystem Research '&' Development Project to develop appropriate nursery and plantation techniques to reintroduce Rhizophora mucronata, a lost natural heritage mangrove species, back into the waters of the UAE. He added that Rhizophora mucronata seeds were procured from Pakistan with the aim of initiating a comprehensive research and development programme, which would result in the development of appropriate nursery and plantation techniques at Ras Ghanada islands and other locations. After a series of experimentation and a lot of hard work in the laboratory, nursery and field, successful nursery and field plantation techniques were developed to establish nurseries plantations of Rhizophora mucronata at Ras Ghanada Island.

Today, this lost natural heritage mangrove species of the UAE is once again growing vigorously in its coastal waters. The species has completely adopted the local natural environmental conditions, withstanding high seawater salinity (+45000 ppm) and high temperatures. Rows of eye catching green plantations of Rhizophora mucronata are an attractive scene one can spot at Ras Ghanada Island. These unique plantations are the only largest plantations in the UAE. The growth rate, formation of wonderful prop roots is satisfactory and approximately the same as that of Pakistan, from where from the seeds were procured.

The more encouraging story about the reintroduction is the fact that the plants have "flowered". Many plants began flowering after the age of 4-5 years. It is expected 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. "Thanks to cooperation and assistance from EAD, this achievement has become possible. Without their support, it would probably not have been possible to achieve this historical work" Al Ahbabi said.

Ecologically, mangroves are of high importance for coastal greening, coastline protection and habitat restoration. They provide a sanctuary and breeding habitat for a variety of bird and marine fauna and have a high aesthetic value for developing eco-tourism, especially in the hyper arid coastal areas where few tree can survive and flourish. Mangroves are therefore, the only sustainable tree species which are growing naturally after regeneration/plantation.

In the UAE, mangroves occur in patches along the coast, occupying an area of about 3,000 hectares or only 0.0350% of the surface area of UAE. They are therefore extremely precious resources. Avicennia marina is the only single mangrove species growing naturally in the UAE. – Emirates News Agency, WAM

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