Drones have dispersed one million mangrove seeds in Abu Dhabi, the Environment Agency — Abu Dhabi (EAD) said.
The seed-firing drones took to the skies as a part of the first phase of a drone mangrove plantation project that supports the Abu Dhabi Mangrove Initiative.
The dispersal was carried out recently over several days at different locations around Al Mirfa in Al Dhafra region.
According to EAD estimates, the seeds dropped by drones will have a 48 per cent success rate — which means 48 per cent of the seeds are expected to take root and grow into trees.
Abu Dhabi’s plans to establish the emirate as a hub for research and innovation to support the conservation of mangroves, and focus on their importance for carbon sequestration to combat climate change. The initiative also supports the UAE’s Ministry of Climate Change and Environment’s target, announced during Cop26 in Glasgow in 2021, to plant 100 million mangroves by 2030.
The UAE is home to more than a dozen mangrove sites and plans to expand and develop their presence across the Emirates.
The use of drone technology to plant mangroves has several advantages, as the environmental footprint is low.
It is not labour intensive, and there is no need to transport saplings. It is also cost-effective as it reduces the overall price of mangrove planting, eliminates the need for mangrove nurseries and associated costs, and can reach remote and difficult areas.
The project is also running a trial on incorporating machine learning for future monitoring phases.
Dr Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, secretary general of EAD, said: “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, in a slow but steady manner.
“A prime example is our latest project of planting one million mangrove seeds via drone technology. This project is one of a number of programmes run by the Abu Dhabi Mangrove Initiative in support of the UAE’s pledge to plant 100 million mangroves in 2030.
“The success rate for this year’s planting looks great so far, and based on the data this year, we will do a refilling of areas for the future success of the project.
“This project is a continuation of our efforts to mitigate the disastrous effects of climate change as mangroves have proven to be very efficient at carbon sequestration, thus reducing the levels of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere.”
The drones are engineered to drop seedlings from the air, monitor the growth of mangrove saplings, map the habitat and create 3D imaging.
Data has shown that the growth of the seed in situ using drones has a success rate that remains stable over three years, the EAD said.
In the past 10 years, EAD and its partners, from both the government and private sector, have planted more than 15 million mangroves along the coast of Abu Dhabi.
What are mangroves?
Mangroves are woody plants that inhabit the intertidal zones of tropical and subtropical coasts around the world.
They are highly recognisable from their visible root systems which can give them the strange impression of being planted upside-down.
This unique appearance is the result of adaptations developed to survive in harsh environments, including high temperatures, high salinity and intense UV exposure.
Mangroves are estimated to cover more than 150 square kilometres of the UAE’s coastline, acting as a “green lung” for big cities such as Abu Dhabi and Dubai, while also providing a wildlife habitat and recreation grounds for humans.
Mangrove peat absorbs excess water during heavy rain, he said, making flooding less likely, and mangroves reduce coastal erosion, with research showing that mangrove loss has made coasts more vulnerable.