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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Abu Dhabi to study climate change threat facing sea creatures

Research deal will assess how mangrove and seagrass areas could be vulnerable to climate change

The environment agency's latest report revealed that 17 dugongs died last year, despite being protected under UAE law since 1999. Kelvin Aitken / VW Pics via AP 
The environment agency's latest report revealed that 17 dugongs died last year, despite being protected under UAE law since 1999. Kelvin Aitken / VW Pics via AP 

The impact of climate change on seagrass and the mangrove areas of Abu Dhabi is to be evaluated in a new government partnership with French energy supplier Total.

A research agreement has been signed with the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi will assess the impact of increasing global temperatures on the region’s dugong populations.

The program aims to explore the relationship between dugongs and their marine environment, before evaluating the impacts of climate change on the seagrass communities of Abu Dhabi.

A research study will place a special emphasis on the dugong in order to develop new strategies to protect the species in the future.

“This study is crucial towards enhancing our understanding of Abu Dhabi’s extensive seagrass meadows, which support the world’s second largest dugong population, as well as over four thousand green sea turtles,” said Dr Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, executive director of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi’s Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector.

“The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed Abu Dhabi’s dugong population as ‘vulnerable’ for the last sixteen years.

“This program would help the Agency take focused action on mitigating the impacts of climate change on our local dugong and other seagrass communities and protecting this vital marine ecosystem.”

Abu Dhabi, UAE. March 12th 2016. Kayakers at the Abu Dhabi mangroves, from a boat tour of the area. Alex Atack for The National.
The mangroves of Abu Dhabi are located right in the heart of the city. Alex Atack for The National.

The seagrass meadows of the Arabian Gulf provide critical support to regionally and internationally significant populations of dugongs, as well as many other marine species. They also play an important role in climate change mitigation through their ability to sequester carbon.

In the Gulf region, seagrasses are exposed to large seasonal variations in water temperature and salinity – meaning that they are probably already living at the edge of their tolerance.

The impacts of climate change are expected to put the seagrasses of Abu Dhabi under even more stress, which will, in turn, have a real impact on the dugongs that rely on seagrass for food.

Total, the world’s fifth largest international oil and gas company, was the key sponsor of EAD’s Dugong Conservation programme from 1999 to 2018.

“Total in the UAE long-term partnership with the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) is part of our ongoing strategy with the Total Foundation to act in a sustainable and responsible manner,” said Hatem Nuseibeh, president of Total E&P in the UAE.

“We are proud to be in partnership with organisations that support actions committed to finding solutions to the challenges of climate change in the UAE.”

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