x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Study to examine effects of animals grazing on rare plants

A study will examine the impact of animals grazing on rare plants in Wadi Wurayah.

FUJAIRAH // A new study will gauge the impact that grazing animals are having on the rare plants at Fujairah's Wadi Wurayah.

The Emirates Wildlife Society - World Wide Fund for Nature (EWS-WWF) will carry out the project, set to begin this autumn, in association with Fujairah Municipality.

Wadi Wurayah is famous as the last refuge of rare animals such as the Arabian tahr, Caracal lynx and possibly even the Arabian leopard.

The area's flora is no less remarkable. Included are around 300 plant species such as the UAE's only native orchid species, Epipactis veratrifolia, which lives along the banks of the sweet-water wadi.

The plants provide food for many insects as well as for grazing animals such as the tahr, and have value for humans too, said Ida Tillisch, acting director general of the wildlife society.

"These plants have significant medicinal value in local traditions," she said. "They also support a local tradition of honey gathering."

While the wadi's protected status means domestic animals should be kept away from it, a population of feral goats is eating the vegetation. The study will aim to measure the impact of this grazing by enclosing certain areas and measuring the growth of plants in them, versus the growth of areas outside the enclosures, Ms Tillisch said.

"We are trying to assess the problem - what is it that grazers take and what is it that we have to do in order to ensure the area is healthy?" she said.

The study, which is expected to take six months to a year to complete, is sponsored by HSBC bank, which has been involved in helping to protect the wadi since 2006. The area was declared protected in 2009.

The vegetation study is a step towards drafting a management plan for the area. As a final goal, the conservationists and their partners are hoping to build a visitor centre in the wadi. They also hope to manage the area in a way that will preserve its natural beauty for future generations.

vtodorova@thenational.ae