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Al-Wathba Wetland Reserve
محمية الوثبة للأراضي الرطبة

united arab emirates

First Listed

2018

Area
4.55km2

Why is it Green Listed?

Al Wathba Wetland Reserve (WWR) is a complex of natural and man-made surface water bodies located approximately 40km southeast of Abu Dhabi Island. Al Wathba Wetlands Reserve was established in 1998 as the first protected area in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. It was recognized internationally and announced in 2013 as one of the Ramsar sites and the first wetland site of global importance in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The reserve is home to the large flamingo, which has been growing steadily since 2011, in the Arabian Gulf region, at Al Wathba Wetlands Reserve, where the last successful breeding was recorded more than 80 years ago in Kuwait. Thus, making it the only site in the UAE and the Arabian Gulf where this type of bird can breed. The reserve supports a variety of wildlife and biodiversity, including 55% of the total bird species present in the United Arab Emirates. The reserve also provides a sanctuary for many local species. The protected area contains five species of birds and reptiles that are globally threatened. It has more than 250 migratory birds, 11 mammals, 10 reptiles and more than 35 species of plants.

Public access to the site was developed in November 2014. The Reserve now receives more than 7,000 visitors per season. Al Wathba Wetland Park plays a key role in highlighting the biodiversity of the emirate and provides a good opportunity for environmental education.

Mustafa Eltoum, Coordinator & Ranger in Al Wathba Wetland Reserve

“This recognition allowed visitors to learn about the uniqueness of Al Wathba especial the birds watcher and its helped to transfer the environmental awareness to a large segment”

Key Achievements

Conservation

  • Restored and transformed an urban-industrial complex into one of the most important wetlands in the region (Ramsar since 2013), through access to water from a treatment plant;
  • Greater Flamingos arrived, began breeding in 2011. Numbers have steadily increased annually
  • Many threatened species now occur; 55% of birds occurring in the Emirates have been recorded

Good governance

  • Cross-sectoral public support and political will, with well-demonstrated stakeholder inclusion and satisfaction
  • Innovative industry partnership with the Mafraq water treatment unit

Community benefits

  • Significant economic benefits for tourism operators as a key attraction for Abu Dhabi residents and international visitors alike.

Ahmed Abdulla Al Dhaheri Unit Head, Terrestrial Protected Area Management – Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD)

“Thanks for giving us this opportunity and for showing our gratitude for what the wetland has become after getting the IUCN Green list recognition. and I can say this recognition make us use the site more for awareness for the students schools, universities and the wetland visitor, as well as promote ecotourism and show a special model for effective management at the level of the Arabian Gulf”

Site Attributes

WDPA ID

Size
45.5km2

Designation(s)
Ramsar Site

IUCN Category
IV

Year Established
1998

Marine Protected Area
No

Governance Type
State

Site Agency
Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD)

Site Manager
Ahmed Al Dhaheri

Application
20.05.2018

EAGL Evaluation
06.11.2018

GL Committee Submission
12.11.2018

EAGL Chair
Mohammed Zaarour

ASI Reviewer
Mounia Essefiani

Site Summary

Al Wathba Wetland Reserve (WWR) is a complex of natural and man-made surface water bodies located approximately 40km southeast of Abu Dhabi Island. WWR was established in 1998 as the first protected area in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. It was recognized internationally and announced in 2013 as a Ramsar site and the first wetland site of global importance in the Emirate. The reserve is home to breeding populations of Greater  Flamingo, numbers of which have been growing steadily since 2011. WWR is highly significant in the region, as the last successful breeding was recorded more than 80 years ago in Kuwait. The reserve supports a variety of wildlife and biodiversity, including 55% of the total bird species present in the United Arab Emirates. The reserve also provides a sanctuary for many species and local species. The protected area contains five species of birds and reptiles that are globally threatened. WWR plays a key role in highlighting the biodiversity of the Emirate and provides a good opportunity for environmental education. Public access to the site was developed in November 2014. The Reserve now receives more than 7,000 visitors per season.

The total surface area of the main lake is approximately 132 hectares. The lakes occupy an area of “inland sabkha”; a site where the water table lies just below the surface and the water is drawn upwards through the sands by capillary action where it evaporates leaving deposits of salts. Immediately to the north of the site is the Mafraq Water Treatment Works from which Al Wathba Wetlands receives much of its water in the form of treated effluent. The other main source of water being irrigation water runoff collected from the nearby fodder farms at Al Wathba camel station.

1. NATURAL VALUES
MONITORING OF VALUES
THRESHOLDS OF SUCCESS
CONDITION OF VALUES
SUMMARY OF TRENDS AND RESULTS
Greater Flamingo Monitoring at site level in detail and consistently, year round. Data feeds into national M&E plan and data analysis (such as Khan et al 2017).
Thresholds are set to a general level, as population data for the region is highly variable. Also, the population has increased every year since monitoring began. However, detailed seasonal monitoring is in place. Success thresholds are general to specify that: Flamingo breeding pair numbers are stable or increase. Overall Flamingo numbers are stable or increase, relative to the overall annual estimates for thee whole of Emirates.
Flamingo populations are in excellent condition with the highest recorded total of 4,762 birds recorded of approximately 15k to 20k for the whole of the UAE. (Khan et. Al 2017). In UAE, WWR is the only inland site with breeding flamingos. Monitoring reports show that breeding began in 2011 with 17 pairs. In 2017 there were 448 pairs, despite a dip in numbers in 2016.
Management responses for 2017 included anti predator fencing, mound development and habitat restoration to favour breeding areas. The trend is for a stable or increasing population, with breeding expected to increase above 500 pairs regularly in the coming years.
Wetland bird populations Annual and seasonal counts by staff, researchers and bird watcher visitors (citizen science forums).
Thresholds are set to a general level of presence of all resident / expected migrants, and for recorded numbers to be stable or increasing.
All bird populations are consistently good or improving., with no major fluctuations and a steady increase in habitat quality and availability for most wetland birds.
Management responses are successfully reducing threats while increasing available habitat area, diversity and quality.
Wetland biodiversity and habitat integrity Monitor water flows, levels, quality and ph; monitor rainfall and climate conditions; monitor vegetation status and habitat conditions
Thresholds are set to a general level of quality and integrity for all habitat types and for water quality indicators. These are based especially on the key site value of flamingos.
The site integrity is very high and the wetland can be classified as in good condition for all habitat types.
The ability to control and influence water levels through collaboration with the water treatment works adjacent to the site provides a good platform for site-based management to maintain excellent conditions for biodiversity in the wetlands.
2. ECOSYSTEM SERVICE VALUES
MONITORING OF VALUES
THRESHOLDS OF SUCCESS
CONDITION OF VALUES
SUMMARY OF TRENDS AND RESULTS
REGULATING SERVICES Water quality and other site monitoring includes data on micro-climate regulation to trap dust that blows with the summer and autumn wind, and also increase the humidity of the dry surroundings.
Thresholds not set specifically for climate or other regulatory services given the minimal size and low importance of these values to local stakeholders. However, this forms part of overall ecological integrity monitoring.
Good but small-scale
Matches quality of habitat and ecosystem condition, which is very good.
3. CULTURAL VALUES
MONITORING OF VALUES
THRESHOLDS OF SUCCESS
CONDITION OF VALUES
SUMMARY OF TRENDS AND RESULTS
VISITOR EXPERIENCE AND EDUCATION Visitor numbers and visitor experience are monitored by ticker (numbers) and feedback forms, target surveys and local forums.
Thresholds are not set other than to keep visitor numbers to a daily and seasonal cap.
The visitor facilities are in excellent condition with new education centre and interpretation available. Visitor satisfaction is very high
7,000 visitors per year from all types of backgrounds. The visit itself is free, maximising revenues for tour operators and minimizing costs for local people, schools and residents of Abu Dhabi.

Conservation Summary

Site visit report: The site visit was successfully carried out by Mohammed Zaarour and Nabegh Ghazal Asswad.

EAGL meeting minutes

EAGL consensus and vote: The EAGL were unanimous in their resounding support for the site’s recommendation to the IUCN Green List based on the quality of technical information, and the validation efforts of the site visit team.


EAGL statement

The EAGL unanimously and with full consensus agree that WRR meets all the indicators and criteria for the Green List. In particular, the tremendous success in biodiversity recovery and conservation with a special focus on adaptive management and active intervention to improve and increase the status of natural values to a significant level. In particular, the Greater Flamingo population management has seen 17 pairs nesting in 2011 to nearly 450 pairs in 2018. Aside from the wetland values, local stakeholders and business are active partners and the site is worth millions of Dirhams in economic benefits to Abu Dhabi city. Stakeholders were all fully supportive of the Green List process and recognition. The EAGL unreservedly recommends the site to the Green List committee for addition to the IUCN Green List.


Reviewer statement (Mounia Essefiani): The Reviewer validates Al Wathba’s Green Listing process as being in conformity with the User Manual’s rules and procedures. The site has made all efforts to document their process in COMPASS and to proactively and actively respond to EAGL members following their assessments of the site’s self-assessment and MoVs before the site visit took place. The Reviewer confirms that all this has been done in a transparent way and with full integration of the Assurance Provider. The EAGL assessment of the self-assessment and evidence submitted by the site prior to the site visit was very thorough and at all time evidence-based, and the site response, e.g. including action plans, reviewed argumentation or communications with the EAGL were at all times in compliance with the User Manual and aiming at demonstrating compliance. 
Unfortunately, the Reviewer could not attend the EAGL’s discussion on Al Wathba that took place on Monday the 12th of November, but ASI’s Project Manager, Marnie Bammert, did attend on behalf of the Assurance Provider and briefed the Reviewer on the discussion. Recommendations made by the EAGL are transparently mentioned in the EAGL’s statement. The EAGL voted unanimously for the recommendation of the site to be added into the Green List.  Based on the whole GL process, Marnie Bammert’s feedback and the EAGL statement following the discussion, the Reviewer confirms that the site is compliant with the User Manual procedures and submits the site to the Green List Committee for their final decision.

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