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Abu Dhabi uses drones and AI to reseed desert land

Mangrove forests stop erosion and protect the coast from storm surges EAD
Mangroves on the edge of Abu Dhabi: the emirate is to use drones to reseed its wild areas
  • Wild habitats and mangroves targeted
  • Native plant species brought back
  • Mangroves ‘top carbon sink’

Abu Dhabi has begun trials to restore arid desert land in the Al Dhafra region by using drones for aerial reseeding.

The pilot is being undertaken by the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) and the investment and holding company ADQ, along with a UK-based environmental technology company, Dendra.

The companies will use advanced seeding drones and artificial intelligence technologies to restore desert and coastal areas across the emirate.

The partners say that “innovative solutions” based on data and advanced AI will be employed to preserve environmental habitats and local species and restore the ecological balance in the wild habitats and mangrove areas of Abu Dhabi.

The partnership will support EAD’s drive to assess the condition of terrestrial and coastal habitats in the emirate and increase the environmental information known about them.

Each seeding drone can carry 53 species at a time and seed an area of more than 50 hectares – the size of more than 100 football fields – a day.

The drones will record the exact planting location for each bag of seeds and monitor the success of restoration.

EAD will guide and oversee the analysis phase of the trial to determine the feasibility of future large-scale terrestrial habitat rehabilitation projects.

“Together with Dendra, we are building a research and development-powered supply chain to bring native plant species back to Abu Dhabi’s deserts and mangroves, which restores balance and boosts ecosystem health,” said Anas Jawdat Al Barguthi, chief operating officer at ADQ.

During the Cop28 summit, 21 countries formally endorsed the Mangrove Breakthrough campaign, run by the Global Mangrove Alliance and the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions, to restore and protect 15 million hectares of mangroves worldwide by 2030.

Ahmed Al Hashmi, executive director, terrestrial and marine biodiversity, at the EAD, told AGBI: “Mangroves represent one of the top carbon sinks of all studied blue carbon ecosystems.”

The summit mobilised $2.6 billion to protect nature, including forests, mangroves and the ocean, from the impacts of climate change.

In September, the UAE government committed to planting 10 mangrove seedlings for every visitor to Cop28. The pledge symbolised the significance of the hardy trees in the UAE’s climate action plan. 

Mangroves’ unique salt filtration system allows them to absorb more oxygen than an average plant and store more than 1,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per hectare in their biomass and soil, the United Nations says.

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