Bulletin 04 March 1978: Natural Vegetation and Re-afforestation in Abu Dhabi

Natural Vegetation and Re-afforestation in Abu Dhabi

by Bish Brown

Note of a talk given by Mohammed I R Khan to the ENHG (AD)

Abu Dhabi lies in the Sub-Tropical Arid Zone. Factors of locality affect the vegetation. High temperatures, strong winds, sandstorms and saline water result in very sparse vegetation.

The natural vegetation has been overgrazed and many of the trees have been felled to make charcoal and feed stock. Among the natural wooded species are dates, 'ghaaf' (Prosopis spicigera, Acacia tortilis, Acacia arabica), and 'sidr' (Zyziphus spinachristi).

Shrubby bushes include 'arta' (Calligonum sps, Tamarix gallica and Halozylon spp). The former grows where there is sweet water and the latter two where there is brackish water beneath the surface. The many different zones in Abu Dhabi support a variety of vegetation. The sabkha flats support little life and only Salsola sp. grows on its fringes. Along the coast in shallow water areas mangrove (Avicenna marina) and a saltbush (Anthrocnemum glaucum) thrive. Inland on sandy coastal strips, a rush (Cyperus conglomeratus) is very common. In salty areas Tamarix sps. is common.

In the Liwa, southeast of Abu Dhabi, in addition to date palms (Phoenix dactilirera), Halozylon spp, Salsola spp, and calligonum sps, all grow well. Once the spring rains have fallen many annuals, the seeds of which have lain dormant through the hot summer, begin to grow often giving a profusion of colour.

When Shaikh Zaid inaugurated the re-afforestation programme in 1969, it was to reduce soil erosion, restrict the effect of wind and create micro climates within the forest areas to assist the growth of animal fodder. The Western Region of Abu Dhabi is a very difficult area to afforest and it is hard work, but results are beginning to show. Irrigation can be with fresh, sewage or brackish well water depending on the area. When one considers that a single date palm requires approximately 60 gallons of water per day for evapo-transpiration and to leach out salts, large amounts of water are necessary. It remains to be seen whether some of the trees can develop root systems to make them self-supporting should the irrigation system fail.

Another aspect of re-afforestation will be seen soon at Al Baba, near Bida Zaid, where 100 hectares (250 acres) have been fenced in with a 8 ft fence to make a reserve for Gazelle and other deer.


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