Date palms and satellites are helping the UAE fight carbon emissions

Satellite imagery is proving crucial in helping the environment by estimating the amount of carbon sequestration in data palms, according to researchers at the United Arab Emirates University.

The major project, due to complete at the end of next year, has so far revealed that date palm trees in the UAE can capture up to 15.8 tons of carbon emissions per hectare per year, said Dr Salem Issa, principal investigator who kicked off his research in 2017.

“This space technology contributes to helping decision-makers find out how to balance carbon emissions through planting more date palm trees,” he said, adding: “The tree is a sacred one in the country, it is actually used as part of the country’s heritage and culture, and it can also contribute to the reduction and sequestration of carbon.”

The UAE is among the top countries in the Arab region and the world in terms of number of date palm trees, reaching about 15-16 million trees planted in Abu Dhabi alone.

“Everyone is talking about global warming and it is fuelled by the emission of carbon, which comes from burning fuels,” he said. “The country is oil productive, so it is by nature contributing to burning fuel and increasing carbon in the atmosphere. On the other hand, we are talking about one of the biggest countries in combatting desertification by planting millions of date palm trees every year, without the intention of reducing carbon, but it is a greening, anti-desertification and carbon-sequestration effort, which is very successful.”

He said two or three papers will be submitted for publication next year, with the final results of the project expected to be published at the end of this year or beginning of next year.

Issa spoke of the importance of the study as more date palm trees need to be planted as part of an environmental and sustainable effort.

More awareness will also need to be raised among residents and decision-makers about the significance of such an effort, he added.

This article first appeared in Arabian Business.