A total of 2.5 million mangrove seedlings are to be planted in water along the coastline of Abu Dhabi in what’s being called a ‘living defence against the impact of climate change’ by organisers.
The project is a joint environmental programme by Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and Dubai-based technology firm Distant Imagery.
ADNOC says it intends to plant up to 10 million seedlings by 2030. The drones are capable of dispersing 2,000 seeds in just eight minutes. While the success rate is still unknown estimates place it at around 40 per cent.
Ibrahim Al Zu’bi, Senior Vice President of Sustainability and Climate at ADNOC, said: ‘Mangroves can provide a living defence against the impact of climate change, by preventing erosion, stabilising Abu Dhabi’s coastlines and enhancing biodiversity, as well as significantly contributing to the quality of life in the area for future generations.’
The project will reinforce one of the emirate’s already existing major ecological assets, as the vegetation creates a unique wildlife habitat for birds including the greater flamingo, protects against tidal surges, purifies surrounding water and removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Although mangroves cover less than one per cent of the earth’s surface, they form one of its most biodiverse environments. Worldwide they provide a valuable nursery habitat for fish and crustaceans; a food source for monkeys, deer, birds, even kangaroos; and a source of nectar for honeybees. They support complex communities, where thousands of other species interact
Globally however they are being destroyed at rates 3 to 5 times greater than forest loss. Over a quarter of the world’s original mangrove cover has already disappeared.
Mangroves Phase One
As part of the first phase of the Abu Dhabi programme, custom-built drones and rigging equipment have been used to plant more than 200,000 mangrove seeds in capital’s Mirfa coastal lagoon.
Their germination and growth will be monitored for the next year, with a total of three years set aside for the second phase of 2.5 million plantings.
Across the entire UAE a national goal of 100 million newly planted mangroves has been set for 2030.
The method of using drones to do the planting was developed by the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency (EAD).
Ahmed Alhashmi, Executive Director of Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector at EAD, said: ‘We are looking forward to working with ADNOC on this mangrove project to ensure that we all achieve our objectives of combating climate change through nature-based solutions as mangroves are very resilient and are hugely important thanks to their qualities as effective carbon sinks.’
The project will offer opportunities for volunteers to participate in the planting process, from picking seeds to helping monitor the growth of the offshore forests.
Jane Glavan, Co-Owner of Distant Imagery, said: ‘Rehabilitating mangrove ecosystems is an effective way to mitigate the effects of climate change and restore natural habitats and biodiversity.
‘At Distant Imagery, we are taking an ecological-restoration approach to the mangrove planting, from site selection to planting patterns, and we are honoured to be involved in such an impactful project that supports ADNOC’s Net Zero by 2050 ambition and promotes Abu Dhabi’s natural ecosystem.’
The mangrove forests form one of Abu Dhabi’s key ecological assets and are part of its Sheikh Zayed Protected Areas Network. They are home to hundreds of bird and plant species including the greater flamingo, western reef heron and mottled crab.
They also fight climate change – with global mangrove forests sequestering as much as 22.8 million tons of carbon each year.