EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Protecting Quaternary palaeoenvironmental sites in south-east Arabia: a database approach

Kenta Sayama, Ash Parton, and Heather Viles
Kenta Sayama et al.
  • University of Oxford, School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford, United Kingdom of Great Britain – England, Scotland, Wales (

Quaternary palaeoenvironmental archives are essential for our understanding of past climate changes and humanity’s response to them. In the age of anthropogenic climate change, these sites are not only important scientifically, but also educationally to teach people about the impact of climate change, and the role it played in shaping past communities. 

The landscape of the Arabian Peninsula is highly reactive to even subtle changes in climate and recent research has shown that palaeoenvironmental archives in south-east Arabia (i.e., dunes, fluvial/alluvial and palaeolake deposits, etc.) are crucial for our understanding of the role of climate change in the late-Pleistocene dispersal of early human populations out of Africa. The importance of archaeological sites in this region is increasingly recognised, with many sites benefitting from extensive research and conservation. Similarly, the rich geological history of the region has either been catalogued or protected with integration into national tourism strategies. Despite the the budding initiative of geoheritage conservation in Arabia, however, the protection of Quaternary palaeoenvironmental sites has been entirely disregarded.

With the lack of a protection framework and the continuous economic development of the region, many of these archives are under imminent threat or already destroyed. At present, no assessment has been conducted to examine the possible extent of such loss. Here we propose that a system must be established for scientists to record and highlight the potential threat of destruction of these irreplaceable archives.  Also, to protect these sites effectively, we must develop a conservation strategy with an understanding of the factors that differentiate them from geoheritage sites that already enjoy protection.

For the first time, this study has compiled a database of Quaternary palaeoenvironmental archives in south-east Arabia. A total of ~300 sites in the entire region have been assessed for their risk status, with ~100 sites in the UAE assessed additionally for their scientific and educational values. Preliminary results indicate that more than 10% of sites, mostly in urban or coastal settings, have been destroyed or are under imminent threat.  Furthermore, the prevailing prioritisation of conventional aesthetic values in geoheritage conservation has been identified as a major obstacle in promoting the conservation of these sites. 

How to cite: Sayama, K., Parton, A., and Viles, H.: Protecting Quaternary palaeoenvironmental sites in south-east Arabia: a database approach, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-12127,, 2021.


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