Researchers at UAEU study climate change impact in Emirate of Abu Dhabi

Climate change can have a devastating impact on our environment, land and daily life. And that is specifically what Professor Taoufik Ksiksi, at the Department of Biology at the United Arab Emirates University’s College of Science, is setting out to prove.

His project on the impact of climate change on land use in Abu Dhabi looks at how it manifests itself from environmental and socio-economic perspectives. 

Three months ago, Dr Ksiksi started collecting surveys from different target audiences, including farmers, experts, professionals as well as people living in Abu Dhabi, to look at the economic impact of climate change. This includes noticeable changes residents have had in their expenses over the past 30 or so years, related to land use change, electricity and the price of land, among other factors.

A set of 25 to 30 questions were compiled in each survey to find out people’s views as residents of Abu Dhabi, whether they noticed climate change and any potential impact on their daily lives.

Although still in early stages, Dr Ksiksi started gathering answers last week for statistical analysis to be able to draw conclusions on what the potential outcome of such surveys could be.

From the environmental perspective, he is setting out to gather all kinds of satellite data to find out whether any changes have happened in relation to land use. The images look at historical and future changes in land use classes over the Abu Dhabi Emirate.

Following a visit by the Minister of Climate Change and Environment, H.E. Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, to Dr Ksiksi’s laboratory satellite images were provided for his research. “We are now in the process of the first initial preparation of images because they have to be prepared before any analysis is done,” Dr Ksiksi said. “We will then perform a set of classification algorithms, then compare those land use classes to what has been done in 2005 images, and see what has changed. That will take a good 12 months.”

The research is also destined for Latifa Al Balooshi, his Emirati PhD student, who has been working on the topic for two years. She will be visiting a laboratory at Gulf University in Bahrain next semester, for a few weeks, to work on classification processes and receive hands-on experience in remote sensing and Geographic Information System (GIS).

“The topic is hot and it’s needed,” Dr Ksiksi said. “Climate change is impacting our daily lives, so we wanted to look at different perspectives and then look at how there has been really testable changes in the land use we’re experiencing, especially as Abu Dhabi covers more than 80% of the land area in the UAE, and the desert ecosystems is critical for the success of any land improvements schemes.”

With massive recent developments in the emirate, the research will be able to find out about any potential changes in the last decades. This will help the country better manage for the future. “With the greening schemes happening in Abu Dhabi, and the UAE in general, there is a big role that the UAE has been playing,” he added. “So where do we go from here? Do we green more areas? Which areas constitute hotspots for future land improvement interventions? Which species do we use for these greening exercises that we are running all over the place? All of this constitutes a habitat for all the organisms above it and it will affect wildlife, birds and mammals.”

The study will also help the government in planning for the future and push some research and development into ways to minimize the impact of climate change on daily life, from various perspectives, including use of energy, electricity and the impact of green buildings.

Dr Ksiksi hopes the minimal outcome will be to raise people’s awareness on being convinced that climate change is real. “People will believe it’s happening and maybe they should do something about it, that’s a big outcome,” he concluded. “We should do more from all perspectives – we rely a lot on the government but we should do more as a research institution to bridge that gap between the science of climate change and the daily lives of residents.”

Initial results have shown a noticeable increase in green areas in Abu Dhabi, especially from the aspect of palm tree plantations.

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Aug 7, 2018