PHOTO CREDIT: Victor Besa / The National.

Children in Abu Dhabi will be taught the importance of mangrove forests in a new course.   The ‘Mighty Mangroves’ initiative, organised by an offshoot of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, will educate hundreds of children between Year 8 and Year 12.   They will learn how the coastal trees promote biodiversity and protect coastal shores.  

Schools in Al Dhafra will take part in the initiative, which will include lessons in Arabic and English, as well as hands-on participation, when teenagers will be invited to plant mangrove saplings by the sea.   The programme is organised by Adnoc Offshore in partnership with Azraq, a UAE-based ocean conservation organisation.  

Founder Natalie Banks explained the relevance of the project: “Azraq has been actively planting mangrove trees in Ajman for the past two years, due to the amazing ability these trees have in keeping waterways healthy and sequestering carbon.  

“We are beyond thrilled to expand our efforts into Abu Dhabi with the assistance of Adnoc’s sponsorship.”   Mangroves are important in the fight against rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. They have been proven to absorb up to four times more greenhouse gas, than trees found in tropical rainforests such as the Amazon.  

The UAE boasts 4,000 hectares of mangrove forests, the largest in the Arabian Gulf region. The shrubs grow well in salty water and are considered by ecologists as essential for a healthy coastal ecosystem.  

Their numerous aerial roots absorb the waves and help prevent shoreline erosion, while acting as nurseries for thousands of marine species and filtering pollutants. Flamingos, western reef herons and mottled crabs can be spotted in Abu Dhabi’s 19 sq km Mangrove National Park.  

The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi uses high-resolution satellites to map the emirate’s mangrove plantations. Research released in 2018 found that 80 percent of Abu Dhabi’s mangroves are healthy, while 15 percent are in moderate condition and 5 percent are in deteriorating health.  

Ahmad Al Suwaidi, chief executive of Adnoc Offshore, said: “This mangrove partnership with Azraq is a wonderful way for us to reaffirm our commitment to protecting the environment, in which we operate and to help our young people understand the ecological significance of the ‘mighty’ mangroves in our country.   “The UAE’s coastal areas are part of our precious natural heritage, and we are committed to helping to sustain them.” (The National)