Did you Know?
  • Feeding on shrubs, the Spiny-tailed Lizard never drinks water and is capable of changing colour with body temperature, turning from black to white or yellow as the lizard warms up

Are Desert Rodents a Suitable Indicator for Assessing Change in Ecosystem Health in the United Arab Emirates Inland Deserts?

David McGrath

ABSTRACT

Given their reliance on vegetation for feeding and shelter, and importance as prey species, rodents present a potentially useful bioindicator of arid desert ecosystem health. The study aim is to build on the existing research conducted by the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve in the area of inland desert of the United Arab Emirates. The study aims to investigate whether the enclosure of a protected desert reserve and implementation of land-use management practices ten years ago has improved ecosystem health in the reserve. Utilising data on rodent abundance, the study attempts to determine whether there is a discernible difference in ecosystem health inside and outside the reserve. Using a stratified random sampling approach, a total of 39 sites were identified and surveyed using live trapping with baited Sherman traps deployed from dusk until dawn. The data was collated and subjected to statistical analysis. The study shows a discernable difference in rodent abundance and species diversity within the DDCR compared to the NR areas outside of the reserve. The generalist Gerbillus cheesmani dominated the trap results were the only species recorded in traps set in dune habitat. Species richness and diversity were higher on gravel plain habitat within the DDCR, suggesting that recovery of the vegetation following exclosure allows for the support of a more diverse small mammal community. Further study would be warranted to determine seasonal variations and survey effort may need to be adjusted to target species that may not have been fully represented using the rapid transect methods employed in this study.