UAE names a new Ramsar Site in Abu Dhabi

29/04/2013

The fourth Wetland of International Importance to be designated by the government of the United Emirates is also its first Ramsar Site in the emirate of Abu Dhabi. As summarized by Ramsar’s Ms Nessrine Alzahlawi, Assistant  Advisor for Asia-Oceania, Al Wathba Wetland Reserve (500 hectares, 24°15’41”N 54°35’08”E) is a complex of natural and human-made surface water bodies located approximately 40 km southeast of Abu Dhabi city. Formerly a salt flat (‘sabkha’ in Arabic) that used to flood only during winter rainfall, it is now maintained by a regular supply of tertiary treated freshwater from a nearby sewage treatment plant. This regulation of the water level results in hypersaline, brackish and freshwater habitat of varying depths, providing an ideal site for many wetland dependent species within a hyper-arid biogeographic region.

The area was declared as a reserve after the first successful breeding of the Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) there in 1998, marking the first known successful breeding of this species in the Arabian Peninsula since 1922. Threatened wildlife can be seen, including the critically endangered Sociable Lapwing (Vanellus gregarious) and the vulnerable Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca) and Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga). The site also regularly supports breeding populations of the Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrines) and Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta). Access to the general public is currently limited to educational tours and bird watching groups; however, a future visitor centre is being planned to encourage tourism.



© Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD)

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