The Ghaf tree has a special place among the people of the Emirates, due to its environmental value, its many benefits, and its association with the country’s identity and heritage. Therefore, the Emirates has paid great attention to it and launched many initiatives that have contributed to preserving it and increasing its numbers.
Ghaf trees cover large areas of the land of the Emirates, bearing witness to the interest of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, may God rest his soul, and his deep love for nature, his keen interest in protecting and preserving the environment, his encouragement and support for agriculture, and the expansion of spreading the green area, as The founding father was interested in planting trees in general, and ghaf in particular, and issued directives prohibiting their cutting in all the emirates of the country. He also ordered the planting of new forests.
Ghaf trees are distinguished by their ease of reproduction, rapid growth, and adaptation to the surrounding environmental atmosphere, as their roots go deep into the soil over long distances. They are also distinguished by their ability to withstand drought and absorb water from 20 meters below the surface of the earth.
These trees are a wealth of many benefits, the most important of which is combating desertification, as they tolerate high salinity, weather fluctuations, and winds. They are suitable for planting in sandy soil. They are also used to plant trees in streets, roads, and public parks, which decorate them and give them a sophisticated aesthetic character.
Regarding its environmental benefits as well; The Ghaf tree works to reduce carbon emissions by absorbing them, thus helping to reduce the effects of climate change. It also contributes to improving air quality, as a Ghaf tree that is up to 10 years old can sequester about 34.65 kilograms of carbon dioxide annually.
The “National Sustainability” campaign, which was recently launched in conjunction with preparations for the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28), which will be held during the period from November 30 to December 12 of this year in Expo City Dubai, reviews the UAE’s initiatives in preserving… Ghaf trees, as the campaign devoted a special focus to the “reserve” to highlight national success stories in the field of environmental protection and biodiversity, through a set of joint initiatives and innovative solutions.
The campaign aims to spread awareness about environmental sustainability issues, encourage community participation, and support national strategies related to climate action in order to achieve a positive impact on individuals’ behavior and responsibilities, leading to an environmentally conscious society.
The media campaign covers several axes, most notably “The Legacy of the Founding Father,” which highlights the approach and legacy of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, may God rest his soul, in the field of sustainability, and the “Climate Action Champions” axis, which aims to highlight individual contributions to innovative initiatives in The field of climate action to build a more sustainable society, and the axis of “The Path to Achieving Climate Neutrality,” which reviews the UAE’s efforts to confront climate change in order to achieve the goals of climate neutrality.
The Ghaf tree was declared the national tree of the UAE in 2008. This choice is due to the amazing ability of this tree to adapt perfectly to the desert environment of the country. It is a tree that tolerates drought and can remain green even in harsh desert environments, in addition to its importance to humans. And animals and to maintain the balance of the environment as well.
In 2019, the Ghaf tree was chosen to be the emblem of the Year of Tolerance in the UAE, due to the great connotations that the tree carries as it is one of the original trees, and is linked to the popular and environmental heritage and Emirati authenticity. It is a symbol of steadfastness in the desert and a witness to ancient customs.
National awareness campaigns.
Many government and private agencies in the UAE have launched national campaigns to protect Ghaf trees, which included environmental awareness initiatives for all segments of society, in addition to organizing environmental competitions and distributing posters and leaflets about the importance of the Ghaf tree and how to preserve it.
These campaigns aimed to protect this tree from the threat of extinction, in recognition of its value and importance in protecting the UAE’s environment, its contribution to combating desertification, and the people of the region’s connection to it since ancient times.
Local authorities in the country take strict measures against those who cut down Ghaf trees, in accordance with Federal Law No. 24 of 1999, which prohibits cutting, uprooting, or collecting wild plants illegally.
Many government agencies in the country have launched national campaigns to protect Ghaf trees, such as projects to number Ghaf trees in the emirates of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman and Ras Al Khaimah, in addition to planting Ghaf trees in the Al Muntashir Forest Belt Reserve in Sharjah.
The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, in accordance with Cabinet Resolution No. 18 of 2018 regarding the cultivation of local plants and nature conservation, also launched the “Grass” website, which aims to encourage the public to grow local plants, and other initiatives and efforts at the UAE level to protect Ghaf trees in terms of Cultivation in nurseries and use in afforestation and rehabilitation.
Ghaf trees play an integral role in the food chain in the ecosystem in the UAE, as their flowers, fruits, leaves, branches and roots are resources and habitats for a variety of endemic plants and animals, making them an essential species on which many species depend. Many birds also build their nests in them, and bees harvest nectar. Its flowers produce high-quality honey.
Ghaf trees have shrubby and trellis plants that grow on them, and their shade provides a favorable climate for many animals in the summer heat.
Ghaf trees are considered one of the richest trees in terms of the benefits that desert residents benefited from. They used their wood as fuel and material for construction and furniture, and took shelter in their lush shade.
Due to the importance of this tree from an environmental standpoint, the Ghaf Nizwa Reserve was established for it in Dubai. It is characterized by the presence of a number of Ghaf trees, which appear in the form of forests of trees that cover the area and provide a shady and attractive environment for various types of birds and animals.
Employing modern technologies
As part of its strategy to preserve local biodiversity and increase the green area in the country, the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment is working to launch initiatives that contribute to preserving local trees and increasing their numbers, most notably the Ghaf tree.
Employing modern technologies constitutes a general trend in the UAE with the aim of finding innovative solutions to achieve sustainability, and in this context, the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment announced in 2020 the success of planting 6 million brown seeds and 250 thousand ghaf seeds, in 25 scientifically selected sites in the country, within A local agriculture project using drones, as part of its strategy to enhance and sustain local agricultural production.
The project aimed to spread millions of seeds of local trees, from Ghaf and Samar, via drones in selected areas across the country, where the seeds were carefully selected and prepared in highly practical and technical ways, in coordination with local authorities in the process of carefully selecting sites.
The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi is keen to protect ghaf trees and increase their numbers, as more than 6 million trees have been planted in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, which now constitute 31% of the total trees planted in forests, in addition to recording nearly 54 thousand ghaf trees that It lives in its natural habitat in the eastern parts of the emirate.
The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi takes strict measures regarding the cutting of any local trees, especially ghaf trees, as this has huge negative impacts on local biodiversity, in accordance with Federal Law No. 24 of 1999, which prohibits the illegal cutting, uprooting, or collection of wild plants.
The Environment Agency’s nursery for propagating local plants currently stores seeds of 58 species of local wild plants, including the ghaf tree. In 2019,
Within the framework of the Year of Tolerance, the Authority succeeded in planting 600 Ghaf trees in the Al Faya area, to provide shelter and habitat for several thousand species, some of which are considered threatened with extinction worldwide. These trees also serve as a natural buffer for the active winds in the region.
During the year 2021, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi launched an ambitious project, implemented for the first time, aiming to count and number local, perennial and threatened trees in the natural environments and habitats spread over the area of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, including Ghaf trees, where the registration and census of 54,456 Ghaf trees and 43,000 Samar trees growing in the state increased. Wildlife within its natural habitats in the emirate.
The Authority implemented numbering procedures through a dual program that includes giving each tree an identification plate bearing serial numbers classified according to the type of tree, in addition to numbering the trees electronically and identifying them with serial numbers and symbols linked to geographical databases.
The Authority began implementing the program by inventorying the targeted tree species using satellite images and aerial photographs, taking coordinates for each tree and storing them in the Authority’s geographic databases, followed by an actual numbering process for the long-lived trees.
Through the implementation of the project, the Authority seeks to achieve its environmental and cultural goals of protecting local trees from illegal encroachments. The project also contributes to enhancing the quality of data available on local trees in natural habitats, given that the project will document a detailed assessment of the condition of each perennial tree, and detailed measurements of tree dimensions. Their lengths and evaluation of their vegetative system to determine the extent of their positive impact on combating desertification and improving air quality.
Last year, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi succeeded in scattering 500 balls of ghaf seeds covered with clay, charcoal and other moist materials, which helps in absorbing water and then providing it to the seeds, along with some nutrients for germination and the start of growth, as part of a project to rehabilitate ghaf trees using aircraft technology. Unmanned aerial vehicles, with the aim of rehabilitating natural habitats, enhancing vegetation cover, and supporting the soil seed stock in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
The Authority’s initiative to rehabilitate important habitats in various parts of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi during the past year also included dispersing two million seeds for local environmental plants. The initiative included 3 natural reserves, namely the Houbara Reserve in the Al Dhafra region, the Arabian Oryx Reserve, and Jebel Hafeet National Park.
Ghaf tree numbering
In 2014, Dubai Municipality launched the “Perennial Tree Numbering” project with the aim of providing an electronic database on these trees, and statistics on their numbers, lengths, stem diameter, and age. The project began by numbering natural Ghaf trees, as they are the most important tree in the local environment.
Dubai Municipality has completed the first phase of the Ghaf tree numbering project in 177 areas since the launch of the project, which aimed to number 10,000 perennial Ghaf trees.
Dubai Municipality began the second phase of the project in 2021, which aimed to number Ghaf trees in 49 other areas in Dubai. This comes within the framework of the interest that the municipality pays to these trees in terms of cultivation in nurseries, use in afforestation projects, and the transfer of those affected by infrastructure development and restoration projects. Planting them in new sites.