environment

Ministry sounds alarm over invasive species in UAE

At least two dozen invasive plants, animals, and other organisms are harming local biodiversity

Staff Report
14:48 March 31, 2018

Dubai: The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment has warned against certain types of behaviour that raise environmental concerns and threaten native biodiversity. These practices have led to the introduction of invasive species to local ecosystems, posing a threat to indigenous flora and fauna.

Invasive species that are introduced by humans outside of their natural distribution areas can have adverse impact on biodiversity, ecosystems, human health and the economy, the ministry said on Saturday.

24
invasive plants, animals and other organisms found in the UAE

A survey that was carried out as part of the National Programme for the Sustainability of Wildlife revealed the existence of 24 invasive plants, animals and other organisms in the UAE.

The ministry is attributing the alarming number to the “irresponsible behaviour” of some individuals or businesses who lose the invasive species in their possession, by either an accidental escape of the species or deliberate release of unwanted pets.

Importing and exporting contaminants across borders is another pathway for invasive species into the country, in addition to sneaking them in.

While some alien species have made their way into the UAE intentionally for the purposes of aquaculture, biological control, food security and agriculture, these species pose no danger as they are kept under the control and supervision of the ministry — as a legislative body — and local government entities — as executive bodies.

 They compete with native species over resources, which lead to the extinction or population reduction of the native species. They can cause a great economic and environmental harm as alien pests and pathogens can damage ... agriculture and fisheries. They can also cause harm to human health as they carry and spread diseases.”

 - Hiba Al Shehi | Acting director of biodiversity department at the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment  


Hiba Al Shehi, acting director of biodiversity department at the ministry, said the ministry’s teams are collaborating with experts in the field and local government entities to devise an integrated federal plan to combat invasive species. The plan will categorise species based on their risk level and set actions in motion to eradicate and control them, as well as recover and restore local ecosystems.

She said: “The world’s biodiversity is under a multitude of pressures and is experiencing radical changes as a result of population growth, urbanisation, environmental pollution, climate change and the spread of invasive species. Although, in comparison to climate change and land-use change, the introduction of invasive species may not be as threatening to biodiversity, it still is a main factor that we cannot afford to ignore, particularly as more invasive species are making their way into the local environment due to growing inland and sea movement of people and goods.”

Al Shehi added: “They compete with native species over resources — soil, water and food — as well as breeding sites, which lead to the extinction or population reduction of the native species. They can cause a great economic and environmental harm as alien pests and pathogens can damage the production of agriculture and fisheries. In addition, these invaders can cause immense harm to human health as they carry and spread diseases, such as malaria and bird flu. And, they can damage the aesthetic appeal of the city, as they leave their droppings and set their nests everywhere.”