Third Ramsar Site in United Arab Emirates

15 March 2013

The UAE has designated its third Wetland of International Importance, effective 10 March 2013 and located in the emirate of Sharjah. As summarized by Ramsar's Ms Nessrine Alzahlawi, the Mangrove and Alhafeya Protected Area in Khor Kalba (1,494 hectares, 24°59'54"N 056°21'45"E), a National Protected Area, is located in the far east of the country near the border with Oman and comprises coastal subtidal, intertidal (sand beach, mangroves, mud and tidal channels), supratidal sand, salt marsh and saline flats, as well as encompassing a narrow alluvial plain dominated by Acacia woodland. The Avicennia marina mangrove trees found in Kalba are the tallest and comprise the most extensive mature woodland in the biogeographic region; they provide breeding, nursery and feeding grounds for several fish and invertebrate species, besides protecting the coastline from storm damage and erosion while trapping sediments washed off the land.

The critically endangered Hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) and endangered Green turtles (Chelonia mydas) can be observed near the mouth of the mangrove's inlet, entering the creeks at high tide to feed on sea grasses and algae. The area is of great ornithological interest, and an endemic subspecies, the White-collared Kingfisher Todiramphus chloris kalbaensis, breeds almost exclusively at this site, which is also one of just two breeding localities in the region for Sykes's Warbler Hippolais rama. The management and monitoring of this site is carried out with the involvement of the local residents, and an educational visitor centre is planned.

Photos copyright EPAA, Sharjah (Environment & Protected Areas Authority, Sharjah)

Todiramphus chloris kalbaensis, Kalba White Collared Kingfisher