Landscapes from Sea to Summit
The spectacular landscape of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi represents an ancient and unique inheritance. From the highest mountain ridge to submerged coastal reefs, the diverse and often striking features show evidence of powerful forces that have progressively shaped and sculpted the landscape seen today. Some of these formative forces were truly phenomenal in magnitude and time scale involving the movement and collision of continental plates. In addition, the fluctuating state of the Arabian Gulf has at various times over the few million years of its existence, sustained a vast wind blown desert and a meandering river basin as well as the present extraordinary sea. Combined, these formative forces brought dramatic changes and also left a profoundly significant inheritance below the surface. Rock formations and geological structures have allowed the accumulation of essential resources. These include both water within vast subterranean aquifers, and the bountiful oil and gas reserves, which continue to transform the Emirate beyond recognition.
The key to understanding the present landscape and its features rests within events in the distant geological past. However, there are also contemporary forces at work today,
which are equally influential. In particular, dynamic climatic patterns that influence aridity, wind, rainfall and temperature fluctuations continually erode the surface rocks to produce a diversity of landforms shrouded with varying sediments and soils. For example, the dramatic dune fields that typify the deserts of the Emirate have their origins in the distant past. But they too are mobile and ever changing, with characteristic dimensions dictated by the subtle, wind blown movements of individual sand grains.
The epic and evolving story of the Emirate's geographic inheritance is marked by the dramatic interface between land and sea from the macro to the micro scale, from the distant past to present and future, and from sea to summit. This provides the background and context for understanding an intricate environment that continues to impact and is impacted by human development. While the clues to understanding the past rest within the characteristics of today's landscape, there are valuable insights to be gained from the restless Earth regarding the challenges of a rapidly changing environment.