The Annotated Ramsar List: United Arab Emirates


The Annotated Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance


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The Convention on Wetlands came into force for the United Arab Emirates on 29 December 2007. The United Arab Emirates presently has 5 sites designated as a Wetland of International Importance, with a surface area of 19,978 hectares.

site; date of designation; region, province, state; surface area; coordinates
site; date de désignation; région, province, état; superficie; coordonnées
sitios; fecha de designación; región, provincia, estado; área; coordenadas

Al Wathba Wetland Reserve. 25/04/2013; Abu Dhabi; 500 ha; 24°15'41"N 54°35'08"E. Protected Area. A complex of natural and human-made surface water bodies located approximately 40 km southeast of Abu Dhabi city. Formerly a salt flat ('sabkha' in Arabic) that used to flood only during winter rainfall, it is now maintained by a regular supply of tertiary treated freshwater from a nearby sewage treatment plant. This regulation of the water level results in hypersaline, brackish and freshwater habitat of varying depths, providing an ideal site for many wetland dependent species within a hyper-arid biogeographic region. The area was declared as a reserve after the first successful breeding of the Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) there in 1998, marking the first known successful breeding of this species in the Arabian Peninsula since 1922. Threatened wildlife can be seen, including the critically endangered Sociable Lapwing (Vanellus gregarious) and the vulnerable Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca) and Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga). The site also regularly supports breeding populations of the Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrines) and Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta). Access to the general public is currently limited to educational tours and bird watching groups; however, a future visitor centre is being planned to encourage tourism. Ramsar Site no. 2142. Most recent RIS information: 2013.

Mangrove and Alhafeya Protected Area in Khor Kalba. 10/03/2013; Sharjah; 1,494 ha; 24°59'54"N 56°21'45"E. National Protected Area. Located in the far east of the country near the border with Oman, the site comprises coastal subtidal, intertidal (sand beach, mangroves, mud and tidal channels), supratidal sand, salt marsh and saline flats, as well as encompassing a narrow alluvial plain dominated by Acacia woodland. The Avicennia marina mangrove trees found in Kalba are the tallest and comprise the most extensive mature woodland in the biogeographic region; they provide breeding, nursery and feeding grounds for several fish and invertebrate species, besides protecting the coastline from storm damage and erosion while trapping sediments washed off the land. The critically endangered Hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) and endangered Green turtles (Chelonia mydas) can be observed near the mouth of the mangrove's inlet, entering the creeks at high tide to feed on sea grasses and algae. The area is of great ornithological interest, and an endemic subspecies, the White-collared Kingfisher Todiramphus chloris kalbaensis, breeds almost exclusively at this site, which is also one of just two breeding localities in the region for Sykes's Warbler Hippolais rama. The management and monitoring of this site is carried out with the involvement of the local residents, and an educational visitor centre is planned. Ramsar Site no. 2125. Most recent RIS information: 2013.

Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary. 29/08/07; Dubai; 620 ha; 25°11'30"N 055°19'20"E. National Protected Area. Located at the end of the 14 km-long Dubai creek within the northern part of the Emirate of Dubai. A rare site in the arid Gulf region, this natural coastal wetland consists of low-lying saline flats, lagoon, intertidal mud and sand flats and mangrove swamps that serve as an important habitat for more than 450 species of fauna and 47 species of flora. During winter, it regularly supports more than 20,000 waterbirds belonging to 67 species and acts as a critical staging ground for migratory waterbirds along the East African-West Asian Flyway. A number of globally threatened species such as the Sociable Lapwing Vanellus gregarius and Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga are seen in the area; more than 3,000 Greater Flamingoes Phoenicopterus ruber have been counted, and more than 1% of the regional population of Broad-billed Sandpipers Limicola falcinellus migrate through in autumn and spring. Located in the heart of Dubai city, the site receives an average of 10,000 visitors annually and is a valuable conservation and educational center. A visitor center that will serve as the Regional Center for Excellence in Communication, Education and Public Awareness (CEPA) is planned with the goal of promoting awareness of wetland ecosystems and wetland management in the Arab region. Ramsar Site no. 1715. Most recent RIS information: 2012.

Sir Bu Nair Island Protected Area. 02/12/2013; Sharjah; 4,964 ha; 25°13’55”N 054°13’09”E. National Protected Area. Located some 110 km from Sharjah, this offshore island has a terrestrial area of 1,333ha. Geologically, the site is a salt dome formed from regional tectonic activities, and is rich in minerals. Despite its small size, the site supports a high biodiversity for the biogeographic region. A total of 40 coral species and 76 reef fish species have been recorded, including seven coral species that are Red Listed as Vulnerable. The site is an important nesting site for the Critically Endangered Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), and it supports more than 1% of the regional breeding population of the Sooty gull (Larus hemprichii). The island is of historical importance as pottery has been found dating back to about 3,500 years ago. It also used to be a meeting point for fishermen and a base for pearl divers. The island, owned by the government of Sharjah emirate, was declared as a National Protected Area in 2000 and visits are permitted only for environmental surveys and studies. There is a plan to develop a limited area of the site for commercial tourism. Ramsar Site no. 2191. Most recent RIS information: 2013.

Wadi Wurayah National Park. 07/10/10; Emirate of Fujairah; 12,700 ha; 25º24’N 056º15’E. National Protected Area. The area’s geology has created a unique hydrogeological system that allows run-off water to emerge between impermeable and permeable rock creating fresh water streams, pools and waterfalls, all of which are uncommon in an arid region. The diversity of fresh water habitats provide important spawning ground for fish such as Garra barreimiae (Cyprinidae) which is threatened and endemic to the Arabian Peninsula, including seven newly discovered insect species of which four (Order: Ephemeroptera) have water dependent larval stages. The site supports 11 threatened species of mammals, such as the Arabian Tahr (Hemitrgus jayakari). So far, 73 species of birds such as the endangered Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) have been recorded. The Park hosts 17 reptile species such as the Bar-tailed Semaphore Gecko (Pristurus celerrimus) and at least two amphibian species, all which are endemic to the UAE and Northern Oman. The site is a rich archaeological site with 29 heritage sites such as Islamic graveyards, petroglyphs and settlements dating as far as the Iron Age (1,300-500BC). Occasionally, locals venture to the site to collect medicinal plants, wild honey and fodder for livestock. Threats to the site include water exploitation, rock extraction and wildlife poaching. The National Park is owned by Fujairah Emirate. The Environment Protection and Development Department of Fujairah Municipality is responsible for managing this site. Ramsar Site no. 1932. Most recent RIS information: 2010.

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Number of » Contracting Parties: 168 Sites designated for the
» List of Wetlands of
International Importance
2,186 Total surface area of designated sites (hectares): 208,674,247

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