Dr Saji’s findings show us that we still have a lot to learn about the biodiversity of the United Arab Emirates: Cheikh Nahyan
An Indian scientist based in Abu Dhabi has received the prestigious Sheikh Mubarak bin Mohammed Prize for the discovery of 11 species of insects.
Dr Anitha Saji, scientist at the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency (EAD), said insects are an important part of biodiversity and crucial for ecological balance.
âWe are losing our precious biodiversity at an alarming rate due to climate change and habitat degradation. Researching and understanding insects can play an important role. Understanding our natural resources and biological diversity is important to prevent its destruction and ensure its preservation for future generations, âshe said.
Over the years, Dr Saji has conducted detailed studies of insect life in the desert and protected areas of Abu Dhabi and discovered species new to science and UAE records such as the ichneumonid wasp ( 2007), bradynobaenide wasp (2007), cuckoo wasp (2014), gasteruptiid wasp (2016), dancing fly (2016), spider wasp (2018), digger wasp (2019), gall midge (2021), among others.
Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence, recognized his efforts with the 2021 Sheikh Mubarak bin Mohammed Prize.
“Dr Saji’s findings show us, once again, that we still have a lot to learn about the biodiversity of the United Arab Emirates,” said Sheikh Nahyan.
The award created by Sheikh Nahyan almost 30 years ago is awarded annually by the Emirates Natural History Group (ENHG) of Abu Dhabi to a person who has made an original contribution to the knowledge of the natural history of the Arab Emirates. United.
In 2002, Dr Saji began his work with EAD and has since engaged in invertebrate research and terrestrial biodiversity monitoring leading to a strong insect collection. Most of his finds were made in the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve and other protected areas.
âWe understand and document insect species through our invertebrate inventory initiative. This involves undertaking surveys in our protected areas and documenting the species found, âshe said.
The vast insect collection provides insight into the diversity of insects in Abu Dhabi, she added.
âThis adds to our understanding of species: threatened, harmful, toxic and invasive, and therefore has greater societal benefits. “
Dr Saji said research on insects helps in the management of protected areas.
“A good example is our work on brine shrimp and its relationship to water quality to understand the ecology of the species, which is an important food source for the flamingo, a flagship species for conservation. in the Al Wathba Wetlands Reserve. Such work, which demonstrates the ecological relationships and the impact of factors such as salinity and water temperature, contributes to improved conditions and effective management of protected areas.
Dr Saji stressed the need to stress the importance of entomological research.
âInsects can be used as indicators of habitat quality. Since insects have a short lifespan, even short-term or brief impacts on an ecosystem can affect the entire insect population, making them ideal bioindicators. Many undiscovered species may have already disappeared before being identified.
She noted that the EAD collection is an important research resource for the scientific community and students and for engaging and educating the public about insects.
âI developed the EAD insect collection to be fully referenced and cataloged, containing over 2,500 species belonging to 34 orders of invertebrates.
His work led to the development of an Abu Dhabi Red List of Species and the City’s Biodiversity Index for the Emirate.
“I thank EAD, ENHG and Sheikh Nahyan for this award, which has been one of the most memorable moments of my career.”