Sea to Summit
Marine & Terrestrial Ecosystems
The transition from offshore waters to the highest inland summit provides a profile through the Emirate of Abu Dhabi of a series of diverse landscapes with unique habitats and ecosystems, both terrestrial and marine. Although quite distinct, they are interlinked through an intricate and complex web of life. This interconnected web includes a remarkable diversity of species of flora and fauna that have evolved in response to challenging environmental conditions.
When describing the habitats and biodiversity found in the Emirate, several themes emerge. Firstly, there is the notion of living on the edge. Many species exist close to the very limits and tolerances of their survival under relentlessly difficult conditions. Next, there are the unique adaptations to the prevailing environment that allow each species to occupy a specialised niche, no matter how constrained it may be. In addition, there is the idea of concealment and multiple dimensions and facets of the ecosystems. A landscape that at first glance appears barren or lifeless often hides aspects of life that only fully reveal themselves through closer observation and deeper understanding.
Some of Abu Dhabi's most bountiful and delicate natural habitats, including mangrove forests, seagrass beds, mud flats, nutrient-rich shallows and coral reefs occur on or close to the coast. Here, marine resources such as fish and pearl oysters have sustained coastal communities for millennia, allowing trade and cultural links between diverse peoples that still flourish today.
The desert ecosystems of Abu Dhabi display contrasting qualities of resilience and fragility. Over time, this has resulted in remarkable specialisations and a richness and diversity that is not obvious to the casual observer. Only slowly do they reveal themselves and, in the process, illuminate the uniqueness of an apparent emptiness that is far from empty.
From sea to summit, the ecosystems of the Emirate are a priceless natural treasure. While often modest in abundance, they display other qualities that more than compensate for their apparent scarcity. Furthermore, scarcity brings with it a sense of rarity, fragility and greater value. For this and many other reasons, they warrant further research and careful preservation.