New Open-Access Book Explores UAE’s Diverse Ecosystems & Importance of Their Conservation
NYU Abu Dhabi Associate Professor of Biology John Burt edited and published a first-of-its-kind, open-access book titled A Natural History of the Emirates. With over 20 contributing authors from leading universities and major institutions including Emirates Nature-WWF and the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, the book provides a comprehensive overview of the unusual environmental setting of the UAE.
“Even as the UAE continues its remarkably rapid evolution into a successful, modern nation, it is equally important to understand the complexity and importance of its distinctive nature and natural history,” said Burt, who also serves as Co-Principal Investigator of the Mubadala Arabian Center for Climate and Environmental Sciences (ACCESS).
“The unique ecosystems, and diverse flora and fauna that call the UAE home not only provide the foundation for the nation’s rich cultural heritage, but also serve as a testament to the resilience and adaptability of life in this arid region. This book is an in-depth survey of the UAE’s rich natural landscapes, from the majestic sand dunes of the Rub’ al Khali to the vibrant marine life in the Arabian Gulf and much more. It is also open-access, meaning it is widely available for free to the public, students, and educators, offering them a fascinating window into the complex history and interplay between humans and their environment.”
The first section of the book focuses on the physical environment of the Emirates, including an overview of the UAE’s geography, geology, and climate. The major terrestrial and marine ecosystems of the UAE, including the distinctive mountain region, mangrove forests, seagrasses, coastal lagoons, oyster beds, and coral reefs, are included in the second section’s chapters.
In the third section, researchers delve into the diverse flora and fauna found in the UAE, highlighting that despite the generally extreme conditions, a surprisingly wide array of species call the Emirates their home.
Chapters provide an overview of the diversity of species within their groups, their biogeographic affinities, and explore unique features of these organisms that allow them to survive and often thrive in the UAE’s environment.
Vascular flora, birds, terrestrial mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects, are all discussed, as are marine mammals of the Emirates, reptiles, and fishes.
The book closes with a section on human interactions with this unique environment in a rapidly developing nation, exploring changes over time. Authors propose initiatives to ensure the protection of these unique natural assets into the future.
A forward-looking chapter titled The Emirates at 2050 explores what nature in the UAE may look like in the coming decades if bold steps are taken by decision-makers to enhance public awareness, understanding and appreciation of these distinctive ecosystems and organisms, as well as to enhance their conservation for future generations.
Burt added: “Decades of research into the nation’s complex biodiversity have enriched our understanding, but also highlighted the need for enhanced conservation and sustainable development. We hope this book will be a useful resource in advancing those efforts, and that readers will walk away with a deepened appreciation for the importance of nature in the UAE.”
Digital copies of the open-source book are available free-of-charge to all who wish to download it from the publisher’s website. This free accessibility breaks down financial barriers to learning and provides students, teachers, and wider communities with a unique and comprehensive resource.