Mangroves trees are such critical component of the natural ecosystems found in the U.A.E. that a more precise term, mangal, is now used to refer to the complete network of flora and fauna dependent on them. Mangrove is now restricted to individual tree species within the larger mangal environment. The distinction is important because many such species today are non-native to the area, and can in turn attract symbiotic species which are themselves non-native. The forests thus host competing fish, snake, bird, and turtle species, and countless bacterial flora. Mangrove trees themselves depend on saline water, so mangal communities in their direct impact are restricted to the coastal areas, but in those areas they occupy thousands of hectares of land. Indeed archeological evidence suggests that they once spread out even further than today. Because of their past and present reach, they link the region and, through migratory stopovers, global ecosystems. Tightening global interdependence ensures their future importance.
U.A.E.’s mangal forests are increasingly conserved, protected, and promoted. Fortunately new growths can be used to restore environmental damage caused by both historic and modern overuse and destruction. An example of this is Saadiyat Island, where 750,000 saplings will be planted to counterbalance extensive construction projects there. (Six others sites have been identified for restoration as well.) The Eastern Mangrove Lagoon, the closest such ecosystem to Abu Dhabi City, will become the Eastern Mangrove Lagoon National Park, part of a planned expanded park-system. Finally, July 26 has been designated International Mangrove Action Day.