As part of efforts to measure its success in preserving biodiversity, Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) has completed the measurement process for the City Biodiversity Index in Abu Dhabi City.

The index is a self-assessment tool for cities around the world to measure and monitor conservation progress, and a valuable way to spread awareness among people on the importance of protecting biodiversity and ecosystems.

The index, also known as the Singapore Cities Biodiversity Index, aims to help cities achieve sustainable development, with biodiversity and people growing and thriving in harmony, while addressing the risks of biodiversity loss and the impacts of climate change, based on best scientific practices made available over the past decade.

The index also aims to help cities achieve a sustainable environment, enhance biological capacity sufficiently to address any environmental violations, as well as help guide local, national and regional government agencies on measuring biodiversity, the health of the ecosystem, and the success of management practices.

It measures the performance of cities in managing urban biodiversity, and assigns three categories: the number of plant and animal species in the city; the services these plants and animals provide such as pollination and carbon storage; and how well the city manages its biodiversity to conserve natural resources, ecosystems and wild species.

Trees and green spaces in cities help to reduce the negative effects of climate change. They do this by storing carbon, lowering the temperature, purifying the air, and other environmental services provided by plants on farms or on roadsides and in parks within cities and in other green areas. This also supports efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide habitats for other native animals.

EAD has collected measurement data on indicator criteria from several urban places such as public parks, golf clubs and other urban green sites, through field surveys carried out by EAD’s Biodiversity Assessment and Monitoring Team. Information and data related to geographic systems, and information related to awareness activities – collated by EAD and its partners from other government agencies – were also included to provide an accurate evaluation. The initiative was undertaken with the cooperation of the Department of Municipalities and Transport, Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge, Statistics Centre - Abu Dhabi, Al Ain Zoo, and other governmental and private agencies.

Species and families of invertebrates and insects – including wasps, dragonflies, butterflies, scorpions, grasshoppers and beetles – were assessed. Of the 108 species evaluated, 103 are native and five are alien. A total of 192 species of plants were evaluated, including 122 local plants and 70 non-native plant species, while 431 bird species were evaluated, 396 of which were local species.

The data revealed the extensive biological diversity in Abu Dhabi City, where in past years no fewer than 20 species of invertebrates new to science were also recorded. Among those previously unknown to science are the Dance Flies and Digger Wasp species, which were recorded at Al Wathba Wetland Reserve. Among plants, many rare herbal species were monitored, such as the Beach Grass (Halopyrum mucronatum), which was found growing in some areas on Saadiyat Island.

Her Excellency Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Secretary General of EAD, said: “Abu Dhabi City has joined a list of 39 cities around the world that have applied the City Index of Biodiversity – making it the first in the Arab Gulf region and the Middle East. The initiative is considered another major achievement for EAD in the field of preserving biological diversity and confirms the success of its efforts to improve the vital functions of ecosystems – which is one of the main indicators of quality of life and human well-being, in addition to the importance and accuracy of the data collected by the agency over the past years.”

She indicated that the criteria measured by the index reflects the community’s awareness of the values found in ecosystems, and the extent of their contributions to protecting biological diversity. This was achieved by programmes for monitoring, preserving and documenting biological diversity to enhance the city’s ability to collect data on its biological diversity, and so improve data quality and enhance knowledge of the city’s biodiversity.

Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri added: “Efforts made by EAD to involve the community in its endeavours to protect biological diversity contributed to the evaluation score obtained by the agency. [EAD] provides an opportunity to engage community members in a meaningful way in environmental issues, including the application and website Abu Dhabi Nature, which EAD recently launched to help the public learn more about wildlife in Abu Dhabi and to record their sightings of terrestrial and marine species.”

Ahmed Al Hashemi, Executive Director of the Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector at EAD, said: “The index outcomes showed that sustainability percentage in Abu Dhabi City is high compared to the rest of the cities that used the index. This reflects positively on the efforts made in Abu Dhabi to achieve a sustainable environment. This is due to the positive impact on the quality of life and biological diversity in the emirate, which will contribute to providing a healthy and sustainable environment for future generations.

“Abu Dhabi City will not be satisfied with the high results it has obtained, but will seek to achieve an ideal level of environmental sustainability by developing action plans with the Singapore Biodiversity Cities team to update indicators that are suitable for the desert environment. This is in addition to expanding the scope of the field survey to include the cities of Al Ain and Al Dhafra and continue to periodically re-evaluate the indicators to identify progress.”

With the completion of the biodiversity index for cities, Abu Dhabi joins a number of cities from all over the world such as Brussels in Belgium, Edmonton in Canada, Hyderabad in India, Nagoya in Japan, and Auckland in New Zealand, Singapore, London in the UK, and Los Angeles in the US. The result of the evaluation revealed that Abu Dhabi City scored 86 out of 100, which is an advanced score compared to other cities that have also used the index.