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Marawah Biosphere Reserve, United Arab Emirates

The site includes numerous islands and a coastline stretching over 120 km, comprises several important representatives habitats with national and regional significance. These habitats include sea grass beds (3 species), coral reef communities (more than 18 species), macroalgae outcrops (more than 15 species) and mangrove vegetation (monostands of Avicennia marina). Marawah Biosphere reserve is also of global importance as a shelter and feeding ground for the vulnerable Dugongs (Dugong dugon).

Designation date: 2007


Regional network: ArabMAB

Ecosystem-based network:



    Surface :
    545,000 ha

    • Core area(s) : 476.18 ha (terrestrial), 60,523.82 (marine)
    • Buffer zone(s) : 21,483.56 ha (terrestrial), 343,016.44 ha (marine)
    • Transition zone(s): 120,000 ha (marine)

    Location: 24°44'28.1"N - 53°23'79.4"E


    Administrative authorities

    Environment Agency

    Ashraf Al Cibahy
    Abu Dhabi
    P.O. Box 45553
    United Arab Emirates

    Tel: +971 9 2028207


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    Ecological Characteristics

    Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve lies in the hot desertbiome of the Middle East and Western Asia biogeographic region combined characteristics from both Arabian desert and Palearctic bioregions). The surficial geology of the Marawah MBR region comprises of five mainly quaternary deposits, namely, sabkha, dune sands, dunesands with inter-dunal sabkha deposits paleodune deposits and carbonate beach sand deposits.

    The Marawah MBR issignificant in terms of biological diversity conservation since most of the marine and terrestrial species are present in the area. The total area of the MMBR also represents ca 4% of the total area of the country. The habitats within the MMBR are considered to be of national and regional importance.

    These habitats include seagrasses, mangrove, coral reefs, coastal sabkhas, rocky seashores, sandy seashores and rocky ridges.

    The MMBR is of global importance as a shelter and feeding ground for dugongs. The area also provides crucial nursery and spawning grounds for a wide variety of fish species and is regionally important as a foraging habitat for hawksbill and green turtles. Furthermore, the islands inside the protected area provide important nesting sites for hawksbill sea turtles and a number of migratory birds.

    The area is also of significance culturally and archeologically with more than 20 fossil and archeological sites recorded on various islands within the MBR dating back to the 16th century. In addition to that new evidence of a Neolithic settlement has been recorded on Marawah Island.

    Socio-economic characteristics

    The local community in the area practices traditional fishing using controlled non-destructive fishing gear.

    Fishing is only allowed in designated areas of the MMBR and is limited to traditional fishing methods that include fixed net (locally called Hadhra), shore net (locally called Al Sakkar), and seine nets (locally called Daffara).

    All of these traditional fishing activities were evaluated and modified to ensure that they are environmentally friendly.



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    Last updated: February 2019