ZADCO Islands; Zirku and Arzanah, lie north west of Abu Dhabi in the southern Arabian Gulf. Zirku acts as ZADCO's main centre for processing, storage and loading of crude oil from Upper Zakum, Umm Al Dalkh and Satah Fields. The islands cover areas of approximately 8 sq. Kms for Zirku with less than half is industrialized, and Arzanah covers approximately 4.2 sq. Kms where a quarter of which is industrialized. The remaining areas are predominantly natural habitat without any direct impacts from operations.

Terrestrial Environment survey and Island Environmental

In 2002, the environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency (ERWDA) completed a long-term survey of the natural areas of the islands. The aim of the survey was to gain a greater understanding of the biodiversity and ecological resources of the islands and to develop environmental management plans. The survey report highlighted the important sensitive areas and species as well as detailed recommendations for ongoing biodiversity improvement. The survey encompassed each islands' natural plant life, animals (birds, mammals, reptiles and invertebrates), as well as aspects of soil conditions.

Biodiversity and Sustainable Development

Biodiversity is the rich variety of living things in the earth's varying ecosystems, animals, birds and plants. It sustains human life and maintains our basic resources like air and water. Preserving the earth's biodiversity is critical to the continued successful existence of the human race and sustainable development. Sustainable development being “development meeting the needs of today's generations without jeopardizing the ability of the earth's future inhabitants to meet theirs”. The petroleum industry worldwide is often criticized for its adverse effects on the environment, particularly biodiversity. However, ZADCO is taking extensive efforts to understand the biodiversity of Zirku & Arzanah and taking actions to maintain and even improve biodiversity.

Survey Results

Zirku Landform Categories - The natural areas of the island were stratified into coastal, plain, hill and wadi areas, and areas of special interest. The environmental factors for each of these were assessed.

The vegetation on the island represents the primary food and habitat for many of the existing wildlife and is the basis for what to be found inhabiting the island. All the wildlife, being birds, reptiles, or insect depend on the plants either directly or indirectly and as such, the biodiversity of the islands is very much interlinked.

Both islands have relatively high diversity of birds with about forty commonly seen different species. This is partly due to the undisturbed nature of much of the islands and because of the “green” areas in the urbanized areas. Many bird species are permanent habitants of the islands whilst many are those that use the islands as stopover points, to rest and feed during their migratory route across the Arabian Gulf . As such, managing the environment at Zirku with particular care is essential to ensure that these species and their habitats are not adversely affected.

Both islands are important nesting grounds for endangered marine turtles. Zirku may have one of the largest populations of nesting hawksbill turtles in the UAE while hawksbill is an internationally protected species, growing up to one meter in length. Regular beach clean ups are undertaken to remove debris that could potentially upset the nesting process and the important beaches are set as protected exclusion zones by the site management. The other very important turtle specie in UAE waters is the Green turtle, which has been observed close to the islands.

Another point of note for Zirku is that there is an extensive number of invertebrates, beetles, flies, grasshoppers, spiders, butterflies, wasps, ants, bugs and dragonflies. These various species are critical for the biodiversity of the islands as they form the food source for many of the islands bird species and reptiles like the lizards and geckos.

Environment Monitoring and Improvements

ZADCO is maintaining a dynamic campaign of environmental monitoring on the islands to enable early facing of any problems and to ensure that the improvement and protection measures are effective so that “ZADCO islands are sustainable environments with a rich level of biodiversity and vital sites for many rare and endangered species”.

Invertebrates (Insects):

Another point to consider in Zirku Island is the remarkable presence of a large number of invertebrates such as beetles, flies, grasshoppers, spiders, butterflies, wasps, ants, bugs, and dragonflies. These creatures are considered of an utmost importance for the Island’s biodiversity since they are the main source of food for many birds and reptiles living therein such as lizards and geckos which, in turn, form an important source of food for birds of prey, therefore, they form an immanent cycle in the long chain of food. It is likely noticeable, in the survey, that the biological research that has been conducted by ZADCO has proved that some of the species that have been discovered in Zirku were not spotted before in the UAE.