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Why Satellite Earth Observation Data is critical to the success of the Dubai Mangroves Project

Published: 13 May 2024

The announcement of the Dubai Mangroves project is a major step forward in the fight against climate change that is set to transform the urban environment through ecological preservation. It is set to position Dubai as one of the most resilient cities by 2040, through sustainable urban development that blends the restoration of the vital mangroves with the enhancement of urban spaces.

Make no mistake about it, mangrove ecosystems are an essential component to climate action and environmental sustainability strategies. Amongst a range of benefits, they are highly effective at capturing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, they improve water quality in coastal areas, they can provide effective coastal storm protection, and they support marine biodiversity.

As such, this initiative will set a global standard for how sustainable urban development can exist in harmony with our responsibility to the planet. It will provide a blueprint to cement Dubai’s role as a leader in shaping future cities that prioritise the health of natural landscape – with the project being mooted as the world’s largest coastal regeneration initiative.

But the quest to regenerate 72km of coastline with 100 million mangroves is no easy task. Central to the strategy will be the use of innovative technology to help realise these ambitions. There has been much discussion already on the role that drones and AI will play in the restoration. But how else can we use a data-led approach to monitor the growth and health of the mangrove forests? Well, the answer here may lie in the skies…

Planning phases

Urban Twin solutions, which provide a complete 360-degree environmental overview and monitoring, are underpinned by the latest state-of-the-art earth observation data. This can enable governments to activate evidence-based decision-making at the very start of the planning process. These tools will be welcomed to support baseline assessments, providing information on the current condition of mangrove ecosystems.

Satellite imagery along with ground-based insights can then be used to determine suitable locations for new mangrove nurseries, identifying the areas that are most suitable for restoring mangrove ecosystems and assessing current water and existing vegetation quality to inform these decisions.

Planting and monitoring

Following this, during the planting phase, earth observation tools can support with the site selection process, providing insights such as the proximity to existing mangrove forests, soil conditions, hydrology, and land use. Real-time maps can then be created to track changes over time, based on the use of data and insights.

What will also be important in the fight against climate change, is to track how much carbon dioxide is being sequestered by the mangroves. The carbon offset potential here can also be derived from our Urban Twin tool, helping us to understand the lifecycle of mangroves and their adaptation to saline coastal environments.

Ultimately, the adoption of satellite-enabled solutions will allow governments to make more informed decisions to sustain and preserve mangrove ecosystems for the long-term. With 50% of essential climate variables only measurable from space, we must look to the invisible infrastructure of the skies when it comes to the Dubai mangroves project.

Earth observation satellite data provides us with a bird’s eye view of what is really happening on the coastline, which can then help decision-makers to act on these insights for the health of these ecosystems. This is an exciting time for Dubai; the potential to create a blueprint for coastal and urban ecosystem health is significant, and it will be one that should set a world-class example on the international stage for others to follow.

Serco launched its holistic Urban Twin Solution in March with technology partner Murmuration and mobility data partner Michelin Mobility Intelligence. The tool is helping governments and organisations to address critical environmental challenges using the latest space-enabled environmental data and over 40 years of global Serco experience in the sector. Find out more here: Space Enabled Environmental Services (