Dubai Desert

Site description (2017 baseline):

Site location and context
Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve (DDCR) is a large desert reserve in the south of the Emirate of Dubai, linking to the adjacent Al Marmoom Desert Reserve (to the west) via a corridor.

Habitat and land use
The DDCR is mainly a sand-dune desert ecosystem, interspersed with gravel plains. Rainfall tends to be localised and sporadic, averaging between 50 to 85 mm annually though variations are considerable.

The floral diversity of DDCR includes approximately 37 species, 6 of which are trees, 26 are shrubs and dwarf shrubs while the remaining 5 are grasses. Two major habitat types have been identified, the Sand Dunes and Gravel Plains. Each is recognised for its unique terrain characteristics and floral community. The area is a good representation of the habitat of its surrounding ecosystem. Only 28 naturally occurring species have been recorded in the baseline vegetation study. Floral diversity is considered low to medium in DDCR.

Wild (introduced or re-introduced) herbivores on DDCR include Arabia Oryx Oryx leucoryx, Scimitar horn Oryx Oryx dammah, Arabian gazelle Gazella gazelle, Sand Gazelle Gazella subgutturosa. In addition a number of farms within the DDCR have free-ranging camels, 1209 (5.37 camels/km2) were counted in the livestock survey in 2004.

Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
No effort has been spared to protect the fragile desert ecosystem. The Reserve represents a permanently protected area ensuring the future of the region's desert habitats and biodiversity managed according to sound scientific ecological principles, aimed at protecting natural resources and maintaining original desert landscapes.

In line with international conservation practices, the Reserve is segregated into four zones, each with a prescribed utilisation plan, from a complete exclusion zone which can be visited only on foot by researchers, to a limited vehicle access zone for safari groups, excursions and dune camps.

Zone 1: No human intervention is allowed in this area, except entry for research and observation purposes. This prevents unnecessary interference to breeding sites and locations which support plant re-growth. The wildlife is free to move around this entire Reserve Zone area.

Zone 2: Human intervention is limited to infrastructure which supports wildlife and habitat programmes, such as watering points and supplementary feeding stations. This Zone is used for 'seeding' indigenous plant populations.

Zone 3: There are three areas in this zone which are set aside for low environmental impact development. These areas are restricted, with only two percent of the allocated areas used for development. Visitor capacity is set at 0.5 square kilometres per visitor, per day. Only resort guests are permitted within
these areas. No day-visitors are allowed.

Zone 4: This Zone is comprised of four areas set aside for recreational desert excursions. Only approved Dubai-based safari operators with qualified and registered guides are permitted to conduct four-wheel dune driving excursions and organise small dune dinner camps in these areas. Four-wheel excursions are restricted to pre-planned routes.

Protected areas
The Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve (DDCR) is the UAE’s first national park. Carefully planned rehabilitation over the years has resulted in a protected environment for the last of the desert wildernesses. With the rapid development of Dubai as a major business centre in the Gulf, the Dubai Government has long recognised the need to preserve its unique and beautiful desert habitat, and the many threatened flora and fauna species within. This unique reserve was created in 2003 for the protection of those endangered species and for the conservation of the natural desert habitat and heritage.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Dubai Desert. Downloaded from on 25/09/2023.