Using greater flamingo tracking and count data in delineating marine protected areas in the coastal zone of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: Conservation planning in an economically important area
Systematic conservation planning is essential in the justification and design of protected areas, especially in an era where every piece of land or water is at a high premium. We used satellite tracking data and regular monitoring of Greater flamingos into the spatial prioritization planning tool Marxan to identify the most important zones for the conservation of the greater flamingo and many other species of waterbirds and marine habitats in one of the economically important areas in the coastal zone of Abu Dhabi. Locations from 11 satellite tracked flamingos and monthly count data since 2009 in the Bul Syayeef area showed a predominant use of a relatively small area which when integrated in Marxan provided optimum boundary with minimum cost. Marxan identified 1, 5, 10 and 15 ha planning units and provided the best solution with 15 ha. The reduced total area of 145 km2 is nearly 40% of the originally proposed area for protection, is more pragmatic and easy to establish, given the high importance of the area for economic development. Using approximately the same boundary, the proposed area was declared a Ramsar site in September 2016 and was subsequently declared a protected area through a government decree in September 2017.