The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) has successfully planted one million mangrove seeds using drones as part of the first phase of a drone mangrove plantation project supporting the Abu Dhabi Mangrove Initiative.
The Abu Dhabi Mangrove Initiative was announced in February 2021 during Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge’s landmark visit to the UAE, where he met with H.H. Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed Member of Abu Dhabi Executive Council and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Office, at Jubail Mangrove Park.
More than one million mangrove seeds planted by drones in Abu Dhabi
The mangroves – planted at different locations across the Al Dhafra region – is part of the first phase of a drone mangrove plantation project supporting the Abu Dhabi Mangrove Initiative. The initiative supports the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment’s target, which was made public during COP26 in Glasgow 2021, which unveiled a nationwide plan to plant 100 million seeds by 2030.
The process involves using drones to scan the topography of the area to create a 3D map. Then the most efficient planting pattern for that area is calculated using algorithms. Drones are then loaded with germinated seeds and dropped from the sky.
The process is faster and cheaper than hand-planting as it removes the need for intense labour and sapling transportation. It is also cost-effective as it reduces the overall price of mangrove planting, eliminates the need for mangrove nurseries and associated costs, and facilitates reaching remote and difficult areas. Also the environmental footprint of the methodology is low.
Talking about the project, Her Excellency Dr Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Secretary General of EAD, said: “The UAE began mangrove plantation in the 1970s under the guidance of the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Founder of the UAE and also known as the First Environmentalist. He commenced mangrove plantation along the coasts of the islands and mainland of the emirate of Abu Dhabi”
“Despite the fact that the world’s mangroves are declining due to natural and human challenges they are facing, Abu Dhabi has a different story to tell as the plantation of mangroves has continued in the UAE at large and in Abu Dhabi in particular”.
With each planting round, EAD has been evolving not only its methodology for seed germination and site planting patterns, but also seed dispersal mechanisms and drones so they can fly longer. The drone is self-designed and engineered to drop seedlings from the air, monitor the growth of mangrove saplings, map the habitat and create 3D imaging.
The agency plans to further evolve its methodologies and technology. Data has shown that the growth of the seed in-situ using drones has a success rate that remains stable over three years.
In Abu Dhabi, plantation programmes have helped increase the range of mangroves. The increase of mangrove areas in Abu Dhabi was more than 35 per cent, and is the result of plantation and restoration programmes, as well as protection laws and regulations that ensure the sustainability of environmental ecosystems.
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