International Symposium on
Drylands Ecology and Human Security

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Intensification of Rangeland Grazing in an Oil-rich State;
Causes, Consequences and Possible Solutions

D.J. Gallacher & J.P. Hill

Zayed University, Dubai, United Arab Emirates



Land management and farmer lifestyles have changed dramatically on the rangelands of the United Arab Emirates. Over the last 35 years the human relationship with rangelands has moved from a matter of survival, often to become a secondary income or even a hobby.  Both ecological health and indigenous knowledge are in decline.
The authors have studied the 225 km2 Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve (DDCR) to quantify the ecological impact of grazing and its underlying social causes.  The DDCR was established to preserve both cultural and natural heritage, while providing resources for education and tourism.  Its fenced boundary contains 14 active farms that house approximately 1200 camels.
Fully enclosed in the DDCR is a 27 km2 area (Al Maha) that has been free of camels since 1999, but which contains oryx and gazelles.  The authors conducted several inner-fence studies to show the significant impact of camel grazing on small perennial plants , seedlings of both annual and perennial species (submitted), and large shrubs (in preparation).  Nine farmers were interviewed by telephone to assess their knowledge of the desert ecosystem, their attitudes toward conservation, and their current farming methods.  Several farmers exhibited a sound knowledge of up to 100 species of plants and animals, but a poor understanding of rangeland management and the consequences of high stocking rates.  Most had moved to the area after 1971 (the year of UAE federation), and had substantially increased their livestock numbers over the previous decade.  Greater awareness of rangeland sustainability issues is needed among farmers as well as the wider community.  However, reduction of stocking rates requires addressing attitudes toward livestock, as well as resolving the legal ambiguity surrounding common grazing lands.