al Dimaniyyat Islands Nature Reserve
Permanent Delegation of the Sultanate of Oman to UNESCO
Sultanate of Oman , North of Muscat and east of Wilayat Barka
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Al Dimaniyyat Islands Nature Reserve is an archipelago of nine islands along the coast of Wilayat al Seeb (Muscat) and Wilayat Barka (see the attached map). They are surrounded by rocks and shallow seas which lie only 16-18 kilometers from the coast and can only be reached by boat. The islands were designated as a nature reserve on 3/4/1996 with the aim of conserving turtle nesting beaches, natural scenery, coral reefs and birds, as well as promoting ecotourism.
Physical Resources. The islands are composed of prominent limestone rocks and ancient coral reefs. To the north they slope steeply torwards the sea to depths of more than 25 meters. To the south they are flanked by shallow sandy seas with extensive coral reefs.
Biological Resources. The al Dimaniyat Islands Nature Reserve is a nationally, regionally, and internationally important conservation area, in which thousands of marine birds nest in summer, creating a wonderful panorama.
Population of following species, which are of special interest nationally and regionally, occurs in the reserve : Red-billed Tropicbird (Phaethon aethereus), Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), Roseate Tern (Sterna dougallii), White-cheeked Tern (Sterna repressa), Bridled Tern (Sterna anaethetus), Sooty Tern (Sterna fuscata) and Common Noddy (Anous stolidus) nest on north facing cliffs of these islands. The magnificent Ospreys nest in winter months on top of the more prominent cliffs.
Al Dimaniyyat Islands support a multitude species of coral reefs in the area, which grow densely because of the abundant and un-polluted substratum of the shallow seas. Coral shoals that grow in these shallow seas protect the island beaches. Coral grows mainly on exposed rocks, forming a multi-meter frame. In addition, there are many coral species that grow on either the rocky plains or the shattered coral reefs. They provide excellent habitat for the abundant reef fishes that provide the bulk of the harvest by fishermen.
At least one or two species of terrestrial snake live on the islands, whilst marine snakes can often be seen in the surrounding waters. Two species of turtle, the Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) and Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), are frequent visitors in the reserve. From 250-300 Hawksbill Turtles nest annually on the sandy beaches of some of the islands whilst the Green Turtles are feeding in the shallow seas. By providing shelter for these endangered species, the islands acquire international importance.
Two pearl mussels species (Pinctada radiata) and (P. margaritifera) are fairly common in the reserve. Also, the spiny lobster (Panulirus versicolor) are equally widespread. Similarly, the reserve hosts several marine mammals such as the bottlenose dolphins, common dolphins, spinner dolphins and humpback whale. However, there are no terrestrial mammals that inhabit the islands.
The reserve has 15 species of wild plants that densely cover parts of al Kharaaba Island and al Jibaal al Kibaar Island, making these islands the most important habitat for nesting birds. Island birds normally seek nesting cover which are just beneath thick ground vegetation.
Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
Al Dimaniyyat Islands Nature Reserve offers a shelter to a wide range of biodiversity unique in an island ecosystem and located in an arid region. It provides a very vital breeding and nesting area for marine birds, migrants and globally endangered turtles.
Criterion (x): Al Dimaniyat Islands Nature Reserve meets criterion X as it encompasses natural habitats vital for the survival of large numbers of birds, two species of turtles and various species of coral reefs and associated reef fishes as well as other marine organisms.
Statements of authenticity and/or integrity
Except for some isolated disturbed state of the coral reef within the vicinities of the reserve because of harmful fishing methods employed by local fishermen, all other components of the reserve are intact and still in its pristine condition. Nesting habitats of resident and some migratory birds are in active use. Nesting turtles are prevalent visitors that appear least affected if ever by tourists traversing the reserve. It is interesting that such ecosystem is still within its normal and unimpeded processes supporting fully the existence of biodiversity therein. Interventions applied from the protection efforts of the concerned agencies have so far been effective in the maintenance of the island’s integrity. The adequate distance of these islands from the main coasts further contributed in the preservation of this fascinating reserve.
The objective of establishing al Dimaniyat Islands the islands. Other management objectives include providing optimum conditions for turtle and bird nesting. It is also intended to encourage and facilitate field research, to manage recreational use at a suitable level and to ensure that local use of the marine environment by fishermen is sustainable.
Four rangers were recruited in the reserve to carry out management activities such as monitoring fishing and diving clubs activites and patrolling reserve to control which landing and diving. Rangers were provided with proper training, two boats and other essential equipment to undertake their responsibilities. Temporary office for rangers were established on the main island to facilitate monitoring and research activities as well as to help in visitor control.
Coral cleaning campaigns are carried out regularly with active participation from various stakeholders. Bird counting and other research on nesting turtles were likewise carried out by scientists from different agencies as part of their monitoring programme of the islands.
In order to facilitate the management of the reserve and minimize the impacts of human activities, camping on islands was not permitted from May to October every year when most of the birds nesting occur. In addition, landing and camping on islands during off nesting season is only allowed on selected islands to limit any possible interference on certain areas.
Comparison with other similar properties
Al Dimaniyat Islands Nature Reserve can be compared in global features with the following protected areas:
- Farasan and Um al Gammari Islands in Saudi Arabia.
- Italian Saya National Coral reef Nature Reserve
- Fernkloof Nature Reserve in South Africa.
- Turks and Caico Islands in Caribbean.
- Henderson Islands in UK.
Farasan Islands are composed a group of 84 islands and islets that are uninhabited by humans. The reserve supports a large population of seabirds. Gazelles also inhabit the islands, so far considered as the largest population of gazelles remaining in the country. Waters surrounding the islands are also feeding grounds for the Dugongs, Sea Turtles and Manta Rays. Recognized as an Important Bird Area and named as Special Nature Reserve, Umm al Gamari Island in Saudi Arabia is composed of two small flat fossil coral islands. The uninhabited islands having a combined total of 14.7 ha are examples of relatively unspoilt Red Sea Islands with an interesting community of terrestrial breeding birds and dense vegetation cover. Also protected in the reserve is the low-lying coral reef that support an amazing marine community.
Located in South Africa, Fernkloof Nature Reserve has an area of 1,800 ha. In 1957, it was proclaimed to protect the coastlines and its patch of evergreen forest. Flora is unique having a selection of some of the biggest carnivorous plants known in the world. The reserve is inhabited by Grey Rhebok, Cape Grysbok, Klipspringer, Baboon, Mongoose and Dassie together with some 92 bird species. Whales are sighted in the open sea.
Henderson Island is located in the volcanic Pitcairn Island in the south-central Pacific. It is covered by dense scrub forest and considered as one of the few relatively undisturbed elevated limestone islands in the world. It has an endemic species, Acrocephalus taiti being restricted-range occurring within the interior forest and surrounding scrub. Four other bird species (Porzana atra, Ptilinopus insularis, Vini stepheni and Acrocephalus taiti are presently in the vulnerable category. Eleven breeding bird species and other bird migrants are also supported in the island.