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The wetland wonder on the edge of the desert

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Al Thakira, Qatar (CNN) — On the northeastern edge of the vast Qatari desert, rocky and beige flatlands give way to a large extend of abundant vegetation and snaking waterways. Along the tidal estuary, pencil-like roots poke out of the muddy floor to present oxygen to the dense shrubs as innumerable crabs zip in and out of protruding burrows.

Al Thakira’s mangrove reserves are between the Gulf’s country’s most treasured purely natural sites — and 1 of the most well-liked destinations for city people hunting to unwind from city existence, as well as for tourists looking for a inexperienced respite.

These shielded forests are dwelling to Avicennia Marina, also known as the grey or white mangrove tree that has grow to be the dominant species in the region.

Located on the boundary between the Qatari land and sea, the mangrove thickets give a valuable nursery habitat for lots of kinds of coastal and offshore fish and crustaceans and a sanctuary for flamingos, herons and other seasonal chook lifetime.

“Mangroves are 1 of the most crucial ecosystems in this region,” Mehsin Alyafei, a maritime setting professor at Qatar University and a prominent environmentalist, tells CNN.

He explains that mangroves functionality as a normal defense system in opposition to climbing sea concentrations and coastal erosion, aid biodiversity and assist maintain significant fishing stock ranges by nurturing maritime everyday living.

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

Go kayaking

Kayaks or stand-up paddleboards are a terrific way to discover the mangroves.

Courtesy Dimitris Sideridis

Situated just north of the city of Al Khor and some 60 kilometers from the bustling capital of Doha, the mangroves area can be effortlessly accessed by auto — just preserve in brain that the journey demands a couple of kilometers of off-street driving.

After there, the finest way to examine the lush landscapes (when there is a superior tide) is to go kayaking or stand-up paddling.

There are many tour operators and journey firms to pick from and e-book in advance.

They all offer instructors, tools and life jackets at a typical value of QR240 ($65) for each tour, with kids amongst the ages of 5 and 11 billed fifty percent the value.

Purple Island

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

Purple Island is one more spot to investigate Qatar’s mangroves.

Courtesy Dimitris Sideridis

One more favored selection is to pay a visit to the nearby mangroves of Jazirat Bin Ghannam, popularly recognised as Purple Island.

Ordinarily a put of transit that was also applied 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 community mollusc.

According to Qatar Museums, excavations have located a shell heap with the continues to be of nearly a few million specific crushed shells of the sea snail Thais savignyi, together with massive ceramic vats that were being most likely applied to macerate the crushed molluscs.

“You can nonetheless find quite a few shells of these snails on the island,” Meraj M. Qureish of 365 Adventures, just one of the businesses offering equally early morning and afternoon journeys to the mangroves spot, tells CNN. “A different purpose for the name of the island arrives from the a lot of purple bouquets, which blossom each individual spring.”

That includes a prolonged, wooden walkway that connects the island with a seashore and several small hills with limestone cliffs, this spouse and children-welcoming location is best for tranquil strolls throughout small tide, sea daily life-recognizing and fowl-viewing (for the duration of the Qatari winter). It is also available by car or truck, but preserve in mind you are going to have to deliver your very own materials as there are no services out there on the island.

Storing carbon

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

Scientists say the mangroves give biodiversity gains, such as storing carbon.

Courtesy Dimitris Sideridis

The area has over the a long time been the emphasis of a number of volunteer clear-up operations aimed at removing stable waste these as plastic and glass and elevating recognition about the importance of the mangrove ecosystems, specially in a location exactly where the incredibly harsh desert disorders limit vegetation advancement.

Scientists have extensive pointed to the mangroves’ biodiversity advantages, which include their ability to act as filtration units to improve water quality by absorbing pollutants, as nicely as taking part in a significant purpose in the struggle against climate modify because of to their higher sequestration costs for carbon dioxide.

“Per device location, mangroves shop carbon 3 to 4 situations higher than any terrestrial ecosystem,” Daniel Murdiyarso, principal scientist at the Heart for Global Forestry Investigate (CIFOR), tells CNN. “Hence, holding mangroves intact and restoring degraded ones are vital for weather-improve mitigation.”

Mangroves ‘deserve protection’

Qatar has undertaken conservation work to protect its ecosystems.

Qatar has undertaken conservation perform to guard its ecosystems.

Courtesy Dimitris Sideridis

Globally, mangroves include a surface of much less than 15 million hectares — or almost the same size as Greece — in extra than 120 tropical and sub-tropical international locations, according to UNESCO. The body warns that these ecosystems are disappearing three to 5 periods a lot quicker than general forest losses around the world.

The United Nations agency estimates that some nations around the world have dropped additional than 40% of their mangroves amongst 1980 and 2005, in quite a few circumstances thanks to coastal developments, altered land use and expansive commercial aquaculture.

Mangroves have also arrive under serious force in Qatar, where Al Thakira is at present the very last these kinds of ecosystem of take note.

“We’ve lost most of the coral reef in the region, we’ve missing most of the seagrass I hope we can shield the remaining mangroves,” Alyafei says, hailing the country’s conservation efforts, which include replanting works, to protect its ecosystems — and with that, its foreseeable future generations.

Murdiyarso echoed the simply call.

“Tiny strips of Qatar’s mangroves (…) suggest a great deal in the context of extensive desert of Qatar,” he suggests.

“They have earned safety, particularly from city enlargement. Look at the water birds they is not going to arrive if mangroves are taken out, as the ecosystem providers will be wrecked.”

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