The wetland wonder on the edge of the desert

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Al Thakira, Qatar (CNN) — On the northeastern edge of the extensive Qatari desert, rocky and beige flatlands give way to a big stretch of rich vegetation and snaking waterways. Alongside the tidal estuary, pencil-like roots poke out of the muddy floor to deliver oxygen to the dense shrubs as countless crabs zip in and out of protruding burrows.

Al Thakira’s mangrove reserves are among the Gulf’s country’s most treasured purely natural internet sites — and one particular of the most popular locations for city inhabitants seeking to unwind from city existence, as nicely as for holidaymakers looking for a eco-friendly respite.

These guarded forests are residence to Avicennia Marina, also identified as the grey or white mangrove tree that has become the dominant species in the location.

Observed on the boundary in between the Qatari land and sea, the mangrove thickets provide a beneficial nursery habitat for many kinds of coastal and offshore fish and crustaceans and a sanctuary for flamingos, herons and other seasonal chook life.

“Mangroves are one of the most vital ecosystems in this area,” Mehsin Alyafei, a maritime surroundings professor at Qatar University and a outstanding environmentalist, tells CNN.

He points out that mangroves operate as a organic defense program in opposition to increasing sea amounts and coastal erosion, guidance biodiversity and assistance sustain superior fishing inventory concentrations by nurturing maritime daily life.

“We just located extra than 30 fish species in this mangrove,” Alyafei suggests. “There are many types of crabs, more than one particular species of shrimp, squid — anything is coming to feed in this space.”

Go kayaking

Kayaks or stand-up paddleboards are a excellent way to explore the mangroves.

Courtesy Dimitris Sideridis

Found just north of the town of Al Khor and some 60 kilometers from the bustling capital of Doha, the mangroves location can be quickly accessed by car — just retain in intellect that the journey requires a couple of kilometers of off-highway driving.

After there, the very best way to investigate the lush surroundings (when there is a superior tide) is to go kayaking or stand-up paddling.

There are quite a few tour operators and journey businesses to decide on from and reserve in progress.

They all provide instructors, products and everyday living jackets at a typical price tag of QR240 ($65) for every tour, with children concerning the ages of 5 and 11 billed fifty percent the rate.

Purple Island

Purple Island is another place to explore Qatar's mangroves.

Purple Island is yet another put to discover Qatar’s mangroves.

Courtesy Dimitris Sideridis

A different preferred choice is to stop by the nearby mangroves of Jazirat Bin Ghannam, popularly regarded as Purple Island.

Typically a spot of transit that was also made use of by pearl divers and fishermen as early as 2,000 BCE, Purple Island took its identify from the pink-purple dye made hundreds of years back from the shells of a nearby mollusc.

According to Qatar Museums, excavations have found a shell heap with the remains of virtually 3 million unique crushed shells of the sea snail Thais savignyi, together with big ceramic vats that were most likely utilised to macerate the crushed molluscs.

“You can even now uncover lots of shells of these snails on the island,” Meraj M. Qureish of 365 Adventures, one particular of the firms featuring each morning and afternoon excursions to the mangroves region, tells CNN. “Yet another motive for the identify of the island will come from the numerous purple flowers, which blossom each individual spring.”

Showcasing a lengthy, wood walkway that connects the island with a seaside and many modest hills with limestone cliffs, this family members-pleasant location is perfect for quiet strolls all through small tide, sea lifetime-spotting and chicken-looking at (throughout the Qatari winter season). It is also available by motor vehicle, but retain in mind you are going to have to bring your possess materials as there are no facilities out there on the island.

Storing carbon

Scientists say the mangroves offer biodiversity benefits, such as storing carbon.

Experts say the mangroves offer biodiversity rewards, these kinds of as storing carbon.

Courtesy Dimitris Sideridis

The space has over the a long time been the target of numerous volunteer clear-up functions aimed at removing solid waste this sort of as plastic and glass and elevating recognition about the importance of the mangrove ecosystems, specially in a location in which the extremely harsh desert disorders restrict vegetation progress.

Researchers have very long pointed to the mangroves’ biodiversity rewards, including their capability to act as filtration programs to make improvements to water top quality by absorbing pollutants, as very well as participating in a important job in the battle against weather modify thanks to their higher sequestration charges for carbon dioxide.

“For each unit location, mangroves shop carbon three to four times increased than any terrestrial ecosystem,” Daniel Murdiyarso, principal scientist at the Heart for Global Forestry Study (CIFOR), tells CNN. “Hence, retaining mangroves intact and restoring degraded types are vital for weather-improve mitigation.”

Mangroves ‘deserve protection’

Qatar has undertaken conservation work to protect its ecosystems.

Qatar has carried out conservation do the job to guard its ecosystems.

Courtesy Dimitris Sideridis

Globally, mangroves deal with a surface of fewer than 15 million hectares — or just about the similar sizing as Greece — in much more than 120 tropical and sub-tropical nations, in accordance to UNESCO. The system warns that these ecosystems are disappearing three to 5 times faster than general forest losses around the globe.

The United Nations company estimates that some international locations have dropped additional than 40% of their mangroves among 1980 and 2005, in a lot of situations because of to coastal developments, altered land use and expansive business aquaculture.

Mangroves have also come less than critical strain in Qatar, where by Al Thakira is currently the final such ecosystem of take note.

“We’ve misplaced most of the coral reef in the area, we’ve missing most of the seagrass I hope we can secure the remaining mangroves,” Alyafei suggests, hailing the country’s conservation efforts, like replanting is effective, to secure its ecosystems — and with that, its long term generations.

Murdiyarso echoed the simply call.

“Tiny strips of Qatar’s mangroves (…) indicate a ton in the context of extensive desert of Qatar,” he states.

“They deserve defense, in particular from city growth. Glance at the water birds they will not come if mangroves are eradicated, as the ecosystem solutions will be destroyed.”

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