Goal 15: Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss

Laws and strategies

As an integral part of its heritage, the UAE follows a policy to conserve its desert environment and terrestrial ecosystems. Federal Law No. 24 of 1999 for the Protection and Development of Environment aims to protect the environment and its quality, develop natural resources, conserve biodiversity and rationalise its usage across the country.


In 2013, the UAE launched a four-year national strategy and action plan for bio-security to ensure that the country is protected against biological hazards.


In addition, one of the main elements of the UAE’s environmental conservation policies is to raise awareness among new generations to adopt a more responsible behaviour towards natural resources. This is supported by the launch of ‘The National Environmental Education and Awareness Strategy 2015-2021’ that was developed according to international standards and the expectations of the parties concerned.


The strategy aims at educating the youth of the UAE towards a sustainable future and strengthening the community’s commitment to sustainability and environmental protection.



Nature reserves

The UAE is committed to protecting and managing the rich biodiversity of the state. The creation of natural reserves intend to improve the environment and protect the wildlife in the country, in addition to the promotion of eco-tourism.


By 2013, there were 22 nature reserves in the UAE. Reserves that have been listed as wetlands of international importance within the framework of Ramsar Convention increased from 2 in 2010 to 5 in 2013.


Preserving the UAE’s plant species

The UAE aims to conserve its native plant species and use them sustainably. In 2014, the UAE’s Ministry of Climate Change and Environment completed the first phase of its date palm tree identification through DNA profiling through a collaboration with the UAE University.

The projects aims to offer all kinds of support to preserve, identify and classify all genetic assets of date palm trees. It also aims to establish a reference database for all types of palm trees found in the UAE, as well as identify and document the extent of their diversity. The project will also help increase the contribution of palm tree planting and date production to the country’s gross domestic product.


In addition, many initiatives were launched to preserve the UAE’s plant species, including the establishment of the ‘Gene Bank’ for plants’ genetic resources. The initiative will be implemented by Environment Agency — Abu Dhabi (EAD), which is set to document and preserve plants through establishing Abu Dhabi Plant Genetics Resources Centre. The purpose of the centre is to collect and document native plants so that if any species became extinct in the wild it could be cultivated in captivity and reintroduced back to nature.


Fighting land degradation and desertification

Human factors represented in population increase and the change in social order pattern and consumption systems, play a major role in increasing land degradation and desertification. Drought and over-exploitation of natural resources are the main factors that cause desertification.


The increasing pressure on natural resources, water resources and urban encroachment on arable land, along with the intense use of pesticides and fertilisers and overgrazing are contributing to the deterioration of soil.


The UAE is also among the arid land countries on the Arabian Peninsula that has been engaged in the fight against desertification for many years.


On the other hand, the UAE’s climatic conditions such as high temperatures, evaporation, relative humidity and low average rainfall, play a major role in the degradation of land and of fragile ecosystems characterised by vulnerable vegetation and erodible soil.


The human and climatic factors discussed above have caused soil erosion. Wind leads to soil erosion, which results in dust storms depending on wind intensity.


Its impact is deeper in areas with deteriorating vegetation and perhaps erosion caused by wind. This has significant impact on the movement of soil components and their mobility from one place to another, which leads to sand encroachment and dunes’ formation. These dunes or quicksand may encroach to arable lands, civil facilities and public roads and sometimes cause damage to them.


Erosion is also caused by water due to surface water runoff or because of the raindrops impact on soil.


Its effect increases as a result of heavy rains and runoff and as water erodes and deposits soft soil components in other locations.


Canyons and valleys are formed and increase in size with time. Loss of soft clay particles and floods result in the prevalence of loose sand in the surface layer of soil which leads to formation of superficial loose sand layer exposed to erosion by wind.


Climatic changes and frequent drought periods have led to a decline and degradation in natural pastures, resulting in increased numbers of grazing animals per area unit, which in turn led to the disappearance of favourite grazing plants and the spread of least palatable plants.


Due to intensive grazing, lands have become semi-naked and suffer degraded vegetation and soil.


Key achievements towards ‘Life on land’

  • increasing forest areas from 245 thousand hectares in 1990 to approximately 318.36 thousand hectares in 2011


  • conducting environmental awareness workshops targeting various age groups
  • creating natural reserves which reached 22 as of 2013
  • increasing the reserves which are listed as wetlands of international importance within the framework of Ramsar Convention from 2 reserves in 2010 to 5 reserves in 2013
  • breeding Arabian Oryx, Houbara and many other endangered species of animals and birds and reintroducing them in their natural habitat


Read more about UAE efforts to preserve life on land in the environment and energy page.


Read more about the sustainable development goal ‘Life on land’.


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Achievement Progress