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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Abu Dhabi backs efforts to track waterbird populations 

Global website also aims to identify potential wetland sites

Waterbirds at the Al Wathba wetlands in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi 
Waterbirds at the Al Wathba wetlands in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi 

Environment chiefs in Abu Dhabi have weighed in behind global efforts to monitor waterbird populations.

Environment Agency — Abu Dhabi is supporting the development of an online portal to track waterbirds which will also provide opportunities to identify new wetland sites.

Waterbirds include species such as flamingos and thousands of them travel to UAE wetlands every year. About 300,000 waterbirds are present in the UAE during the migratory periods of spring and autumn. Some species are in decline in parts of the world.

Wetlands are vitally important for the world and can help alleviate floods, stop pollution and are natural habitats for many species.

The portal — compiled by experts — will be launched by the Wetlands International group in the "near future" and will be available to the public.

The announcement follows a major conference that was held in Dubai last month dedicated to preserving wetlands.

During the Ramsar Conference, Jebel Ali Wetland Sanctuary near Ras Ghantoot was recognised as a globally significant conservation site. The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is a global conservation agreement. There are more than 2,200 sites recognised by the international convention and eight are now in the UAE.

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Read more:

'Wetlands are the kidneys of the earth': Ramsar conference begins in Dubai

Dubai’s Jebel Ali recognised as a wetland of global importance

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“Governments of the Ramsar Convention worldwide need up-to-date information on waterbirds to identify, designate and manage wetlands to the list of internationally important wetlands or Ramsar sites. Wetlands International is delighted to receive the generous support from the Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi," said Jane Madgwick, chief executive of Wetlands International.

"We look forward to develop the portal in the very near future."

The portal launch date was not revealed but it is expected hold data for about 800 waterbird species. It would be the first time that waterbird population estimates would be available online for use in research, decision-making and the identification of new Ramsar sites.

A wetland is considered internationally important if it supports one per cent of a waterbird species population.

Sheikha Salem Al Dhaheri, executive director of the terrestrial and marine biodiversity sector at EAD, said the portal will help conservation efforts.

“The world is evolving rapidly. Our changing habits and lifestyles are having an enormous impact on our coastal and inland wetland environments," she said.

"The ability to monitor current and readily-available data on species native to these habitats, such as waterbird population estimates, would allow decision-makers to take critical actions towards the protection and conservation of wetlands.”

There has not been a proper review of the global population estimates of wetland species since 2012. Regional assessments demonstrate that the number of threatened species has increased, while population counts have declined. The UAE is currently one of only two countries in the region to regularly undertake the "international waterbird census", which is co-ordinated by EAD.

Since 2011, about 40 sites across the UAE have been regularly monitored each year in an effort to gather valuable information on waterbirds and wetlands through a network of members including Emirates Nature, Emirates Natural History Group, and the municipalities and environment authorities of Dubai, Ajman, Fujairah, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah.