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

Proximity to urban fringe recreational facilities increases native biodiversity in an arid rangeland

Tamer Khafaga, Greg Simkins & David Gallacher


Urban development’s affect neighbouring ecosystems in multiple ways, usually decreasing native biodiversity. Arabian arid rangeland was studied to identify the primary causes of biodiversity variation. Al Marmoom is a 990 km2 area on the urban edge of Dubai, designated for ecological ‘enhancement’ and outdoor recreational use. The area lacks historical biodiversity data but is thought to be primarily influenced by Arabian camel (Camelus dromedarius Linnaeus, 1758) herbivory. Perennial floral and faunal diversity was assessed at 54 sites. Counts of reintroduced ungulates (Arabian oryx Oryx leucoryx (Pallas, 1777), Arabian gazelle Gazella gazella cora (C.H. Smith, 1827) and sand gazelle G. subgutturosa marica (Thomas, 1897)) were made at 79 separate sites. Correlations of observed biodiversity with substrate type, anthropogenic structures, and ungulate distribution were assessed. Native biodiversity was substantially higher in north-north-west locations near recreational facilities, with the most likely cause being differential browsing pressure. Camel browsing faced greater communal regulation in the north-north-west, whereas oryx and gazelles congregated at feed points in the south-south-east that were farther from human activity. Arid rangeland in this socio-ecological landscape exhibits greater natural biodiversity at the urban fringe. Human activity reduces ungulate density, enabling a greater diversity of perennial flora, which then attracts non-ungulate fauna. Anthropogenic features can, therefore, offer conservation value in landscapes where ungulate populations are artificially elevated.