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Jabal Aja’ in Saudi Arabia is an Important Plant Area (IPA) in the Arabian Peninsula. This paper describes the flora of the Jabal Aja’ area and provides an up-to-date botanical checklist. It designates the site as an IPA due to the presence of endemic and biogeographically relict species and the function of the site as a bioclimatic refuge. In addition to these conservation assessments, this study discusses socio-economic issues, threats to biodiversity conservation on Jabal Aja’, and the future research required to build upon these preliminary studies.
E D I N B U R G H J O U R N A L O F B O T A N Y 67 (1): 37–56 (2010) 37
ÓTrustees of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (2010)
Jabal Qaraqir in Saudi Arabia is the first site to be assessed for the Important Plant Area
(IPA) programme in the Arabian Peninsula. This paper describes the geology, fauna
and flora of the Qaraqir site and provides the first botanical checklist of the area.
It designates the locality as an IPA due to the quality of the wadi vegetation and the
presence of endemic and biogeographically relictual species. As well as assessments, this
study also touches on the planning stage of conservation activity. Socio-economic
issues and threats to the conservation of Qaraqir are discussed and suggestions for
conservation action are provided.
Keywords. Conservation, Important Plant Area, Qaraqir, refuge, relict species,
Saudi Arabia.
Important Plant Areas – Introduction
An Important Plant Area (IPA) programme has recently been adopted for the
Arabian Peninsula (Al-Abbasi et al., 2010). This IPA approach to plant conservation
has been developed by Plantlife International in response to the successes of Birdlife
International’s Important Bird Areas programme. These Important Plant Areas are
conceived as the most important places in the world for wild plant diversity, and
their protection is critical for countering the loss of wild plant species and habitats
(Anderson, 2002; Plantlife International, 2004; Al-Abbasi et al., 2010). Important
Plant Areas are recognised as a subset of the Key Biodiversity Areas (IUCN, 2007),
but the criteria for their selection are more flexible and more suitable for plant
conservation. Three broad criteria exist for IPA selection. These concern A –
threatened species, B – exceptional species richness, and C – threatened habitats. In
order for a site to qualify as an IPA, at least one of these criteria must be applicable.
National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development (NCWCD), PO Box 61681, Riyadh
11575, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Centre for Middle Eastern Plants, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 20A Inverleith Row, Edinburgh
EH3 5LR, Scotland, UK.
Author for correspondence. E-mail:
Botany and Microbiology Department, King Saud University, PO Box 2455, Riyadh 11451, Kingdom
of Saudi Arabia.
Whilst originally developed for a European context, the IPA criteria have been
adapted by the Arabian Plant Specialist Group (APSG) for the Arabian region (Al-
Abbasi et al., 2010) in order to achieve the targets set down by the Global Strategy
for Plant Conservation (Secretariat of the Convention on Biodiversity, 2002). As
part of the APSG IPA programme, these revised criteria will be used to assess
potential IPA sites across 12 countries. This conservation assessment process will
provide both a framework and rationale for the implementation of conservation
action in the region (Margules & Pressey, 2000; Knight et al., 2007). The first of
many sites to be assessed for the IPA programme in the Arabian Peninsula is the
mountainous area of Jabal Qaraqir in NW Saudi Arabia.
Jabal Qaraqir – Introduction
Jabal Qaraqir is one of the most spectacularly beautiful areas in Saudi Arabia.
Situated approximately 80 km south of Tabuk (27°279N, 36°369E), the area is a
labyrinth of deep narrow canyons of red and yellow sandstone, that greatly resemble
the famous canyon lands of the SW United States (see Figs 1, 2). The site covers
a very large area (approximately 160,000 ha) and the altitude ranges from 450
to 1950 m.
The intensively dissected sandstone canyon lands are part of the Hisma plateau
and overlie the igneous and metamorphic coastal hills of Madyan. The plateau rises
abruptly from low hills of shield rocks, sandy plains and alluvium-floored wadis, and
is approximately 45 315 km in area. Where eroded by backward-cutting wadis from
750 to 1250 m, it is deeply incised into a maze of rock pillars, buttes and pinnacles,
with narrow cliff-sided canyons between 300 and 500 m deep. To the north and east
a lava-capped sandstone escarpment looms 500–800 m above the plateau and
extends to the lava flows of the Harrat ar-Raha. The Harrat ar-Raha is punctuated
by volcanic cones, plugs and ring dikes and has a summit elevation of approximately
1750 m. For the purposes of conservation planning, this patchwork of different
ecological sites is conceived as a single IPA. The high plateau and lower wadi systems
are ecologically linked (particularly in terms of water availability), and effective
management of these sites cannot be implemented in isolation (Margules & Pressey,
There are no precise climatic data for the Jabal Qaraqir site. Measurements from
the nearest weather station at Tabuk (770 m) are shown in Table 1. The Ministry of
Agriculture rain gauge at Shuwaq, 25 km south of Ad-Disah, has recorded an
average of 40 mm per year. At higher altitudes, Jabal Qaraqir receives mainly winter
rainfall from the Mediterranean as well as orographic rainfall, frosts and snow. The
low wadi channels are hyper-arid.
Jabal Qaraqir is an important site for both plant and animal biodiversity. The area
is home to a large population of Nubian ibex Capra ibex nubiana F.Cuvier, estimated
in the 1990s to be comprised of 300–550 individuals, the largest ibex population
FIG.1. Jabal Qaraqir is situated 80 km south of Tabuk, in the far northwest of Saudi Arabia.
in the Arabian Peninsula. Carnivores include the Arabian wolf Canis lupus arabs
Pocock, red fox Vulpes vulpes L., wild cat Felis sylvestris tristrami Pocock, striped
hyaena Hyaena hyaena sultana Pocock, caracal Caracal caracal schmitzi Matschie,
and honey badger Mellivora capensis Schreber. Mountain gazelle Gazella gazelle
FIG.2. Jabal Qaraqir is a labyrinth of deep sandstone canyons which greatly resemble the
famous canyon lands of the SW United States.
TABLE 1. Comparative measurements from seven major meteorological stations in Saudi
Arabia. The station nearest to Jabal Qaraqir is Tabuk. Data adapted from Ghazanfar &
Fisher (1998)
station Location
Tabuk 28°239N, 36°349E 768 46 44.4 3.7 22.0 0.5
Riyadh 24°429N, 46°439E 614 126 47.4 4.4 24.8 5.1
Jeddah 21°339N, 39°109E 4 47 49.0 9.8 28.4 4.8
Jizan 16°529N, 42°349E 7 129 45.3 11.8 30.6 1.4
Najran 17°309N, 44°129E 1212 50 42.0 0.5 24.7 0.5
Hail 27°319N, 41°419E 1002 116 43.5 9.4 21.5 6.6
Taif 21°169N, 40°259E 1453 204 39.5 1.2 22.9 12.1
Pallas have been recorded in the high lava fields and Indian crested porcupine
Hystrix indica Kerr are also recorded. Key bird species include griffon vulture Gyps
fulvus Hablizl, Hume’s tawny owl Strix butleri Hume, Sinai rosefinch Carpodacus
synoicus Temminck, and Arabian red-legged partridge Alectoris melanocephala
Ruppell. The Palaearctic relict lizard Laudakia stellio brachydactyla Haas has been
recorded from the locality.
Although systematic floristic surveys have not yet been undertaken, a series of
visits to the site have begun to build up qualitative descriptions of the vegetation.
Preliminary surveys have recorded 160 plant species from Jabal Qaraqir (see
Appendix 1). For the purposes of this IPA assessment, the area can be roughly
divided into three major plant habitats: the volcanic plateau of the Harrat ar-Raha,
the sandstone slopes and the wadi valleys.
Harrat ar-Raha
Geology and climate
Along the northern and eastern edges of Jabal Qaraqir, late Cambrian and
Ordovician sandstones are overlain by the Quaternary lava fields of Harrat ar-Raha
and Harrat ‘Uwayrid, composed of basal picrite-ankaramite lavas overlain by alkali-
olivene basalt with scattered volcanic necks, plugs, ring dikes and domes. On this
volcanic plateau there are small areas of shallow stony soils and saline silts in
depressions, with some fertile soils in the clefts of volcanic peaks.
On the edge of the Raha escarpment, the 40 mm of annual rainfall recorded in
Ad-Disah is probably at least doubled by orographic rainfall from the convective
cooling of humid Red Sea air brought in by the prevailing wind over the high moun-
tains. This convective cooling increases cloudiness and in winter causes light falls of
snow and hail.
As no precise climatic data are available for the Harrat ar-Raha, extrapolations
have been made based upon the average data for Tabuk and using the environmental
lapse rate (6.4°C/1000 m) and microclimatic observations on site. Summer and winter
temperatures on the Hisma plateau (1000–1250 m) may be 6–8°C cooler than average,
on the Raha escarpment (1250–1750 m) 8–11°C cooler, and on the mountains above
1750 m, 11–14°C cooler, and so similar to areas much further north.
On the lava-covered plateau of Harrat ar-Raha/Harrat ‘Uwayrid, the vegetation is
relatively sparse (see Fig. 3). The dominant tree is Acacia gerrardii var. najdensis
(for authorities see Appendix 1) but this is very thinly scattered. Relatively common
herbs and shrubs include Aerva javanica,Artemisia sieberi,Caylusea hexagyna,
Centaurea pseudosinaica,Echinops hystrichoides,Ferula ovina,F. rutbaensis,Gom-
phocarpus sinaicus,Paracaryum intermedium,Peganum harmala,Pulicaria crispa,
Salsola tetrandra,Scandix stellata,Senecio glaucus,Sisymbrium erysimoides,Retama
raetam and Zilla spinosa. Grass species include Cymbopogon schoenanthus,Bromus
fasciculatus and Pennisetum setaceum. Tree-sized Sageretia thea and populations of
Irano-Turanian elements such as Delphinium sheilae and Mediterranean elements
such as Alcea striata grow in clefts on the sides of volcanic plugs.
The Zawiyah plateau lies west of the Harrat ar-Raha and 300–400 m below it. It
receives little water (the Ruwafah area is known as Ard az-Zama’, the Land of
Thirst). The valleys between the lava-capped mesas and the level plain are covered
with alluvial hill wash, gravel and sand. The vegetation is heavily grazed and, along
with sparse Acacia tortilis, the resulting dominant is Haloxylon salicornicum with
some Retama raetam.Schimpera arabica is widespread in spring.
The southern fringe of the Harrat ar-Raha lies over rounded white and buff Ram
sandstone, which extends over half the crest area of the inaccessible pinnacles.
Between the expanses of bare rock are relatively fertile flats and cracks. Plant species
recorded from this habitat include Helianthemum lippii,Ochradenus baccatus,Aspho-
delus tenuifolius,Anisosciadium lanatum,Ballota undulata,Fagonia tristis,Launaea
spinosa,Matthiola arabica,Rumex vesicarius and Trigonella stellata. Grasses
FIG.3. The lava flows of the Harrat ar-Raha are one of the most important sites for plant
biodiversity in the Jabal Qaraqir area.
occurring here include Stipagrostis foe
¨xiana,S. plumosa and Cymbopogon schoenan-
thus. Some unpalatable species include Iphiona mucronata and Chiliadenus montanus.
Occasional trees of Ficus cordata subsp. salicifolia and Pistacia cf. khinjuk also occur.
In one north-facing cleft at approximately 1050 m a small Juniperus phoenicea has
been recorded.
Rare species
This relatively cool, humid highland is a major site in the Qaraqir area for a number
of Irano-Turanian and Mediterranean biogeographic relicts. The high peaks and
slopes of the Harrat ar-Raha are some of the most interesting botanical localities
in the north of Arabia. This is the only site in Saudi Arabia where Alcea striata and
Salvia palaestina are recorded. The Harrat is also one of two sites in Saudi Arabia
where the species Pterocephalus brevis (also on Jabal Aja’), Globularia arabica (also
on Jabal Dubbagh), Delphinium sheilae (Jabal Dubbagh), Satureja thymbrifolia
(south of Tayma), Valerianella oxyrhyncha (Jabal Aja’), Hypericum sinaicum (pre-
viously only known from Jabal Lawz) and the subspecies Astracantha echinus subsp.
arabica (Jabal Dubbagh) have been recorded. This area is also one of a handful of
sites for Nepeta sheilae (endemic) (Jabal Dubbagh, Jabal Lawz, Wadi Abaida, Jabal
Soodah), Phlomis brachyodon (Jabal Dubbagh, Jabal Lawz), Stachys aegyptiaca
(Jabal Shaar, Jabal Dubbagh, Aqabata Jizan) and for Ephedra pachyclada subsp.
sinaica (previously only known from Jabal Dubbagh, north of Aha and Jabal Shaar).
Sandstone Slopes
Geology and climate
The deeply incised red Quweira and Siq sandstone canyon lands underlie the Ram
formation from about 600 to 1100 m. Their steep sides make them almost
inaccessible to goats, but only ridges and cracks remain vegetated. As for the rest
of Jabal Qaraqir, there are no precise climatic data available for this area. The
sandstone slopes are likely to receive rainfall amounts above the average for Ad-
Disah (40mm) due to orographic rainfall, but much of this is likely to flow through the
porous and deeply fissured sandstones, towards the wadi valleys below. Temperatures
are likely to be lower than the average for Tabuk (following the environmental lapse
rate of 6.4°C/1000 m) depending on altitude.
The plants in order of dominance are: Lycium shawii (mainly on the lower slopes),
Ochradenus baccatus, Gymnocarpos decandrus,Polygala schwartziana,Helianthemum
lippii,Pterogaillonia calycoptera and Ephedra pachyclada subsp. sinaica. Two perennial
grasses commonly occur: Hyparrhenia hirta and Oryzopsis holciformis subsp. abyssin-
ica. In addition there are many trees of Acacia tortilis mainly in the wider wadis.
Among the pinnacles are sparsely distributed low shrubs, including Otostegia fruticosa,
Stachys aegyptiaca,Lavandula coronopifolia,Retama raetam,Haloxylon salicornicum
(both common in dry sands but occasionally on the rocky slopes), Fagonia mollis,
Teucrium leucocladum,Farsetia aegyptia and Capparis spinosa.
On the rocky sandstone slopes located between the Harrat ar-Raha and the
intermontane plain of Wadi Ash-Shijnah occurs a very sparse, low shrubland
comprised of Anvillea garcinii,Astragalus spinosus,Ochradenus baccatus,Retama
raetam and Zilla spinosa. This sparse vegetation is also comprised of a number of
herbaceous species including Asteriscus pygmaeus,Centaurea eryngioides,Centaurea
sinaica,Echium rauwolfii, several species of Erodium (E. hirtum,E. malacoides,E.
neuradifolium,E. oxyrhynchum), Gymnocarpos decandrus and Rumex nervosus.
Rare species
There are no rare species currently recorded from the sandstone slopes of Jabal
Wadi Valleys
Geology and climate
The geology of the site is composed mainly of late Cambrian and Ordovician
sandstones. These overlie metamorphosed Precambrian volcanic and volcaniclastic
basement rocks of the Arabian Shield, mixed with green schist and sedimentary rock.
The floors of the canyons and lowlands along the southwest are overlain by
Quaternary deposits of talus, alluvial fans, alluvium, and aeolian sands. The
dominant soils are lithosols with pockets and channels of richer alluvium, and
alluvial sands. Deep loamy stratified non-saline to slightly saline torrifluvents and
torriorthents occur in canyon beds and floodplains. In sandy wadi beds and plains
there are deep non-saline to very slightly saline soils with rapid permeability and
moderately low water retention.
The high lava escarpment attracts orographic rain and snow, which runs through
the porous and deeply fissured sandstones, surfacing on the rock floors of the deeper
canyons, where the wadi bed sediments form a sponge above the impermeable
basement rock. Perennial springs are found in Wadi Qaraqir, Wadi Amdan and
Wadi as-Sukhnah, with near-perennial springs in Wadi Ghamrah and Wadi Anqad/
Yanqad. These seeps and springs give rise to a unique wetland habitat in this otherwise
very arid area with an annual rainfall of less than 50 mm a year. Temperatures in the
canyons may be assumed to be a little cooler than the (Tabuk) average in winter, but
may be 4–5°C hotter than average in summer.
Wet wadi floors, streambanks, springs and seeps occur at the foot of the Quweira
sandstone (600–700 m) and are vegetated with a luxuriance which is remarkable for
an arid area and unique in the northwest of Saudi Arabia. These wadi floors (such as
those in Wadi Qaraqir and Wadi Ghamrah) have dense thickets of Nerium oleander.
Open water areas support submerged aquatic plants such as Myriophyllum spicatum.
There are also long banks of 3–4 m high Phragmites australis, large tussocks of
Saccharum ravennae, and, along streambeds, Typha domingensis, doum palms
Hyphaene thebaica, and date palms Phoenix dactylifera (see Fig. 4). Acacia tortilis
and shrubby Tamarix nilotica are also common. The erect herbs Verbascum sheilae
and Verbascum sinaiticum are also found in the sandy soils of the wadi beds. Where
there is moisture on cliff-sides Ficus cordata subsp. salicifolia and F. palmata subsp.
virgata typically occur. Seeps are usually covered with the fern Adiantum capillus-
veneris. The orchid Epipactis veratrifolia has been recorded from a calcareous seep in
the Jabal Qaraqir area.
FIG.4. Wadi Ghamrah contains some of the best wet wadi vegetation in Saudi Arabia.
Nerium oleander,Phragmites australis,Saccharum ravennae,Typha domingensis,Hyphaene
thebaica and Phoenix dactylifera are all abundant along this watercourse.
The dry wadi floors, wadi mouths, and sands are flat and heavily overgrazed. In
Wadi Ash-Shijnah, the resulting dominant tree species is Acacia tortilis with Ficus
cordata subsp. salicifolia occurring at the foot of cliffs. The most abundant shrubs
are Haloxylon salicornicum,Retama raetam and Lycium shawii, along with Fagonia
ovalifolia and Gomphocarpus sinaicus. The herbs Asphodelus tenuifolius and Otostegia
fruticosa are relatively common. Pennisetum divisum and Senna italica are found on
the plains. The flower spikes of Cistanche phelypaea (which is parasitic on the
Haloxylon) are conspicuous in early spring. In the mouths of Wadi Tirban and Wadi
Qaraqir are the degraded remnants of extensive groves of large Tamarix aphylla
which have been lopped to feed camels. Local people claim the dieback is due to
lowered groundwater, but the surviving foliage is healthy.
Rare species
A number of endemic and geographically restricted plant species occur in the wet
wadi valleys of Jabal Qaraqir. The endemic crucifer Douepea arabica (Hedge & Kit
Tan) O.Appel & Al-Shehbaz, which was previously known only from Wadi Qaraqir
(Collenette 874 (K) – Dolichorhynchus arabicus), was recorded in the adjacent Wadi
Ghamrah, during field studies in May 2008. Nine mature individuals were recorded
in sandy soils, with over 30 seedlings also present. This species is associated with
seepages and is found alongside large stands of Nerium and Pennisetum; none were
recorded on the drier slopes. This endemic has been assessed for the IUCN Red List
as Critically Endangered (Hall et al., in press).
Three other rare species recorded from the wet wadi beds in Wadi Qaraqir and
Wadi Ghamrah are the Saudi Arabian endemics Reseda pentagyna,Verbascum
deserticola and V. sheilae.Verbascum deserticola was noted for the first time in Wadi
Ghamrah during field studies in May 2008.
The wet wadi valleys of Jabal Qaraqir (e.g. Wadi Qaraqir, Wadi Ghamrah) are
also the only places in Saudi Arabia where the oleander Nerium oleander grows wild
and are one of a handful of sites for Verbascum sinaiticum (Jabal Lawz), Teucrium
leucocladum (Jabal Dubbagh, Jabal Lawz) and Echinops glaberrimus (Jabal Dubbagh,
Jabal Lawz). Wadi Shignah, at the head of Wadi Qaraqir, is the only known Arabian
site for Chaetosciadium trichospermum. These valleys are also one of two known local-
ities in Saudi Arabia for the orchid Epipactis veratrifolia (also in Lejib gorge) (Collenette,
IPA Assessment
Jabal Qaraqir is an important site for conservation in Arabia. Scott (1995) considers
the area of Wadi Qaraqir to be a site of international significance as a RAMSAR
wetland. Jabal Qaraqir is also an important site for wild plant conservation, and
using the adapted Arabian criteria (Al-Abbasi et al., 2010) Jabal Qaraqir qualifies
as an IPA (see Table 2).
TABLE 2. Jabal Qaraqir qualifies as an IPA under criteria A (1–5) and B (1 & 2)
Criterion A
A1 – Globally threatened taxa Wet wadis of Qaraqir and Ghamrah are the
only known localities for Douepea arabica
and Reseda pentagyna and one of very few
known locations for Verbascum deserticola
and Nepeta sheilae (Chaudhary, 2001).
A2/A3 – Regionally/nationally
threatened taxa
In addition to those above, Jabal Qaraqir has
18 regionally/nationally rare taxa: Nerium
oleander,Verbascum sinaiticum,Teucrium
leucocladum,Echinops glaberrimus,
Chaetosciadium trichospermum,Alcea
striata,Pterocephalus brevis,Globularia
arabica,Delphinium sheilae,Hypericum
sinaicum,Satureja thymbrifolia,Phlomis
brachyodon,Astracantha echinus subsp.
arabica,Salvia palaestina,Epipactis
veratrifolia,Ephedra pachyclada subsp.
sinaica,Stachys aegyptiaca and Valerianella
A4 – National endemic, near
endemic, regional endemic and/or
regional range-restricted taxa
Douepea arabica,Verbascum deserticola,
Nepeta sheilae and Reseda pentagyna are all
Saudi Arabian endemics.
A5 – Species of special interest Douepea arabica is an important wild relative
of cultivated Cruciferae.
Criterion B
B1 – Species-rich example of a
defined habitat type in Arabia
The areas of Nerium shrubland with
Phragmites and Typha are some of the best
preserved and most species-rich examples of
this wet wadi habitat in Arabia.
B2 – Biogeographic and bioclimatic refuge (a) Elements from several biogeographical
zones, including Mediterranean, Irano-
Turanian and Somalia-Masai. Notable
species are Alcea striata (Irano-Turanian)
which is only known from Jabal Qaraqir
and Delphinium sheilae which is only
known from two sites in Arabia.
(b) With lower temperatures and higher
available moisture, the high peaks and
slopes of the Harrat ar-Raha are an
important refuge for geographically and
bioclimatically restricted plants to ‘retreat
to’ in the face of climatic change.
Criterion C
C1 – Outstanding example of a globally or
regionally threatened habitat type
There are currently no regionally or globally
threatened habitats on Jabal Qaraqir.
Socio-economic Issues
The dominant occupation of the human population around the Wadi Qaraqir area
is grazing of domestic livestock. In the canyons a few small farms grow a variety of
crops, mainly vegetables and fruits. As the canyons are subject to flash floods, there
is a real threat of damage to both people and property. On the less rugged sandstone
slopes there is minor grazing of camels, sheep and goats. Farmland is individually
owned, its development dependent on sinking wells. Use of these wells is said to have
lowered the water table downstream. No existing or former himas are known to exist
in the proposed protected area (Llewellyn, 2003), nor any traditional agricultural
terraces, rainwater harvesting systems or other initiatives to conserve plant or animal
This scenic site is comparable with the world-famous canyons of the SW United
States and offers a significant opportunity to develop nature-based tourism in
a manner that would benefit local communities and provide an incentive for
environmental protection. The Jabal Qaraqir area contains sites of archaeological
interest, notably the Roman/Nabatean building Qasr Ruwafah, the Nabatean tomb
door at Ad-Disah, and various inscriptions and petroglyphs.
Jabal Qaraqir is within relatively close proximity to the city of Tabuk (80 km) and
the town of Duba (8 km). As of May 2008, the main wadi valleys of Wadi Qaraqir
and Wadi Ash-Shijnah are directly connected by road to these well-populated areas.
As with other road-building exercises in Arabia, the opening up of this beautiful area
will result in a great increase in the number of people visiting the area for recreation.
Visits to the site in May 2008 noted significant increases in visitor numbers on previous
Threats to Conservation
There are a number of existing and potential threats to the conservation of Jabal
Qaraqir, both as an Important Plant Area and as a site of natural and cultural
heritage. The wetland vegetation in the lower reaches of the canyons (e.g. Wadi
Qaraqir) is gradually deteriorating as a result of agricultural activities. Modifications
are being made to the stream course to create fields and the groundwater flow is
being broken by the intrusion of wells for irrigation. Pumping water for small farms
upstream has already lowered the water table in the nearby town of Ad-Disah, where
salination of fields has already been recorded. Reduction of available water in Wadi
Qaraqir would seriously threaten the persistence of the wetland biodiversity.
Overgrazing is the other major threat to plant conservation. This is evident on the
Harrat ar-Raha, but is especially evident in the wadis where even toxic plants have
been grazed. Overuse of plant resources in the area is also a major problem. For
example, large groves of Tamarix trees in the wadis have been lopped for camel
fodder to the point of destruction. Local farmers also cut and burn the Nerium
shrubs in order to replace them with grass for grazing. Deterioration from
agriculture is likely to increase with increasing numbers of small farms in the area.
From previous case studies in Arabia, the construction of a major new road
through Jabal Qaraqir (Wadi Qaraqir and Wadi Ash-Shijnah) will also pose serious
challenges for biodiversity conservation (Hall et al., 2008). The construction of the
road in Wadi Qaraqir has already resulted in significant clearing of wadi vegetation
and scarring of the natural rock formations through quarry blasting (see Fig. 5). As
well as the physical damage to rock formations and vegetation through road
construction, particular problems are envisaged with increasing access to an other-
wise isolated area. Significant threats may emerge from increased settlement and
agricultural expansion in the area. Increased road access to Jabal Qaraqir also has
the potential to increase hunting of the area’s prominent mammals, offroad driving
and littering. Indeed, field visits to the area in May 2008 recorded a great increase in
littering from visitors accessing the site from the new road. Also accompanying
these visits was an increase in graffiti scrawled on the rock faces and, significantly
for cultural heritage conservation, over large sections of petroglyphs.
For plant biodiversity, increased access to the site and increased resource use
threatens to degrade the wetland vegetation that qualifies Jabal Qaraqir as an IPA
under criterion B. These factors also present a significant conservation threat to the
rare and endemic plant species which make Jabal Qaraqir an IPA under criterion A.
Of particular concern is the regeneration of the Critically Endangered endemic
species Douepea arabica which is restricted to the alluvial wadi valleys that are the
FIG.5. The construction of a new road has caused considerable damage to the wet wadi
vegetation of Wadi Qaraqir, posing a significant threat to the persistence of the endemic
species Douepea arabica.
major focus of road building and agricultural expansion. In order to safeguard the
existence of these species, significant conservation initiatives are required for Jabal
Jabal Qaraqir is currently proposed as a part of a protected area network under
Saudi legislation. Such conservation planning is well supported by the IPA as-
sessment programme, but here we offer a number of important points regarding the
implementation of conservation action in Jabal Qaraqir. As well as legislation, ef-
fective conservation requires full engagement with local stakeholders, in this case the
local people who populate the area. Conservation action needs to offer opportunities
for local people to reduce their potential impact on the biodiversity of Jabal Qaraqir,
either through alternative employment or through the provision of alternative (prefer-
ably improved) land for cultivation and habitation.
Further Research
Although enough data are available to list Jabal Qaraqir as an Important Plant
Area, the biodiversity of the area is still poorly known. Extensive botanical research
is needed in the following areas:
1Comprehensive surveys to build up a basic inventory of the plants in the area.
2Floristic and vegetation studies to determine and map the major vegetation types.
3Recording and mapping the distribution of rare and endemic plant species.
In view of the threats to the rare habitats and species in Jabal Qaraqir, the
establishment of effective, targeted monitoring programmes should be a matter of
priority. Similarly, zoological studies are needed to complete the preliminary surveys
of mammals, birds and reptiles. The ruggedness of the site must conceal considerable
wildlife and these inventories are far from complete. Perhaps the most pressing zoo-
logical research is to determine the population size and health of the ibex population.
Again, in view of the changes occurring in Jabal Qaraqir, the establishment of a
monitoring programme for prominent fauna (such as ibex) must be a priority for
conservation planning. Lastly, any serious conservation planning within the Jabal
Qaraqir area should implement proper socio-economic research programmes to
examine ways in which to engage local stakeholders (Margules & Pressey, 2000).
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Peninsula. Edinburgh J. Bot. 67: 25–35.
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classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG II. Bot. J. Linn. Soc.
141: 399–436.
CHAUDHARY,S. A. (2001). Flora of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Illustrated), Vol. 2(2).
Riyadh: Ministry of Agriculture and Water.
COLLENETTE,S. (1999). Wildflowers of Saudi Arabia. Riyadh: NCWCD.
GHAZANFAR,S. A. &FISHER,M. (1998). Vegetation of the Arabian Peninsula. London:
(2008). Arabia’s last forests under threat: Plant biodiversity and conservation in the valley
forest of Jabal Bura (Yemen). Edinburgh J. Bot. 65: 113–135.
WETAID,A. H. &AL-SHAMMARI,K. F (In press). A conservation assessment of
Douepea arabica (Brassicaceae) – a Critically Endangered plant species from Saudi Arabia.
IUCN (2007). Identification and Gap Analysis of Key Biodiversity Areas: Targets for
Comprehensive Protected Areas Systems. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.
FERRIER,S. et al. (2007). Improving the Key Biodiversity Areas approach for effective
conservation planning. BioScience 57: 256–261.
LLEWELLYN,O. A. (2003). The basis for a discipline of Islamic environmental law. In:
FOLTZ,R. C. et al. (eds) Islam and Ecology, pp. 185–247. Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press.
MARGULES,C. R. &PRESSEY,R. L. (2000). Systematic conservation planning. Nature
405: 243–253.
MILLER,A. G. &COPE,T. A. (1996). Flora of the Arabian Peninsula and Socotra, Vol. 1.
Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
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Plant Areas. Salisbury: The Important Plant Area Secretariat, Plantlife International.
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Received 3 March 2009; accepted for publication 11 November 2009
Appendix 1
Checklist of plant taxa from Jabal Qaraqir. Family delimitation follows APG II
(Angiosperm Phylogeny Group, 2003)
This checklist is compiled from survey data, literature sources and herbarium
specimens. The principal source for each record is noted in superscript next to each
name (1 – IPA Survey Data 2008; 2 – National Commission for Wildlife Con-
servation and Development (NCWCD) Field Surveys; 3 – Collenette, 1999). Taxa
known only from herbarium specimens also have the herbarium specimen listed.
Blepharis ciliaris (L.) B.L.Burtt
Adiantum capillus-veneris L.
Aizoon canariense L.
Allium dictyoprasum C.A.Mey. ex Kunth
Aerva javanica (Burm.f.) Juss. ex Schult.
Pistacia cf. khinjuk Stocks
Pistacia falcata Becc. ex Martelli
Nerium oleander L.
Gomphocarpus sinaicus Boiss.
Asparagus aphyllus L.
Asphodelus tenuifolius Cav.
Echium rauwolfii Delile
Heliotropium ramosissimum (Lehm.) Sieber ex A.DC.
Lappula spinocarpa (Forssk.) Asch. ex Kuntze
Paracaryum intermedium (Fresen.) Hiliger & Podlech
Capparis spinosa L.
Maerua crassifolia Forssk.
Dianthus strictus Banks & Sol.
Gymnocarpos decandrus Forssk.
Polycarpaea robbairea (Kuntze) Greuter & Burdet
Silene sp. aff. grisea Boiss.
Haloxylon salicornicum (Moq.) Boiss.
Salsola tetrandra Forssk.
Helianthemum lippii (L.) Dum.Cours.
Anvillea garcinii (Burm.f.) DC.
Artemisia sieberi Besser (syn. Artemisia herba-alba Asso)
Asteriscus pygmaeus (DC.) Coss. & Durieu
Atractylis carduus (Forssk.) C.Chr.
Centaurea eryngioides Lam.
Centaurea pseudosinaica Czerep.
Centaurea sinaica DC.
Chiliadenus montanus (Vahl) Brullo
Echinops glaberrimus DC.
Echinops hystrichoides Kit Tan
Iphiona mucronata (Forssk.) Asch. & Schweinf. [Grainger 12630 (RIY)]
Launaea spinosa (Forssk.) Sch.Bip.
Leysera leyseroides (Desf.) Maire
Pulicaria crispa (Forssk.) Oliv.
Senecio glaucus L.
Tanacetum sinaicum (Fresen.) Delile ex K.Bremer & Humphries
Zoegea purpurea Fresen.
Convolvulus hystrix Vahl
Umbilicus horizontalis (Guss.) DC.
Aethionema carneum (Banks & Sol.) B.Fedtsch. [Collenette 9296 (RIY)]
Biscutella didyma L.
Diplotaxis harra (Forssk.) Boiss.
Douepea arabica (Hedge & Kit Tan) O.Appel & Al-Shehbaz
Eremobium aegyptiacum (Spreng.) Asch. & Schweinf. ex Boiss.
Farsetia aegyptia Turra
Isatis lusitanica L.
Matthiola arabica Boiss. [Grainger 12631 (RIY)]
Matthiola longipetala (Vent.) DC.
Morettia canescens Boiss.
Sisymbrium erysimoides Desf.
Zilla spinosa (L.) Prantl
Citrullus colocynthis (L.) Schrad.
Cucumis prophetarum L. var. dissectus (Naudin) C.Jeffrey
Juniperus phoenicea L.
Pterocephalus brevis Coult.
Ephedra aphylla Forssk.
Ephedra pachyclada Boiss. subsp. sinaica (H.Riedl) Freitag & Maier-Stolte
Chrozophora oblongifolia (Delile) A.Juss. ex Spreng.
Erodium hirtum (L.) Willd.
Erodium malacoides (L.) L’He
Erodium neuradifolium Delile ex Godr.
Erodium oxyrhynchum M.Bieb.
Globularia arabica Jaub. & Spach
Bromus fasciculatus C.Presl
Cenchrus pennisetiformis Hochst. & Steud. [Collenette 8575 (K)]
Cymbopogon schoenanthus (L.) Spreng.
Hyparrhenia hirta (L.) Stapf
Imperata cylindrica (L.) Raeusch.
Panicum turgidum Forssk.
Pennisetum divisum (J.F.Gmel.) Henrard
Pennisetum setaceum (Forssk.) Chiov.
Phragmites australis (Cav.) Trin. ex Steud.
Piptatherum holciforme (M.Bieb.) Roem. & Schult. [syn. Oryzopsis holciformis
(M.Bieb.) Hack. subsp. abyssinica (Freitag) D.Heller]
Polypogon viridis (Gouan) Breistr. [Collenette 9366 (K)]
Saccharum ravennae (L.) Murr.
Stipa cf. arabica
[The specimen collected from J. Qaraqir, Miller 41450 (E), has
shorter awns than usual for this species and identification requires confirmation.
This would represent a new record for this species in Arabia.]
Stipagrostis ciliata (Desf.) De Winter
Stipagrostis foe
¨xiana (Maire & Wilczek) De Winter
Stipagrostis obtusa (Delile) Nees
Stipagrostis plumosa (L.) Munro ex T.Anderson
Tricholaena teneriffae (L.f.) Link
Myriophyllum spicatum L.
Hypericum sinaicum Hochst. ex Boiss.
Gynandriris sisyrinchium (L.) Parl.
Ballota undulata (Sieber ex Fresen.) Benth.
Lavandula coronopifolia Poir.
Lavandula pubescens Decne.
Mentha longifolia (L.) L.
Micromeria imbricata (Forssk.) C.Chr.
Nepeta sheilae Hedge & R.A.King
Otostegia fruticosa (Forssk.) Schweinf. ex Penzig
Phlomis brachyodon (Boiss.) Zohary ex Rech.f.
Salvia palaestina Benth.
Satureja thymbrifolia Hedge & Feinbrun
Stachys aegyptiaca Pers.
Teucrium leucocladum Boiss.
Teucrium popovii R.A.King [Described as a distinct species from T. leucocladum on account
of its relatively long, curved calyces and c.10 mm long corollas (Chaudhary, 2001). In this
critical group, more extensive collections are needed before determining the status of this
putatively endemic taxon. Existing collections from Wadi Qaraqir/Ghamrah are Collenette
9151 (E), 9152 (E), 9074 (E).]
Acacia gerrardii Benth. var. najdensis Chaudhary
Acacia tortilis (Forssk.) Hayne subsp. raddiana (Savi) Brenan
Astracantha echinus (DC.) Podlech subsp. arabica Hedge & Podlech
Astragalus spinosus (Forssk.) Muschl.
Crotalaria persica (Burm.f.) Merr.
Lotononis platycarpa (Viv.) Pic.Serm.
Retama raetam (Forssk.) Webb & Berthel.
Senna italica Mill.
Trigonella stellata Forssk.
Plicosepalus acaciae (Zucc.) Wiens & Polhill
Alcea striata (DC.) Alef.
Ficus cordata Thunb. subsp. salicifolia (Vahl) C.C.Berg
Ficus palmata Forssk. subsp. virgata (Roxb.) Browicz
Ophioglossum polyphyllum A.Braun [Collenette 1012 (K)]
Epipactis veratrifolia Boiss. & Hohen.
Cistanche phelypaea (L.) Cout.
Hyphaene thebaica (L.) Mart.
Phoenix dactylifera L.
Polygala schwartziana Paiva
Rumex nervosus Vahl
Rumex pictus Forssk.
Rumex vesicarius L.
Delphinium sheilae Kit Tan
Caylusea hexagyna (Forssk.) M.L.Green
Ochradenus baccatus Delile
Reseda aucheri Boiss. var. bracteata (Boiss.) Abdallah & De Wit
[Miller & Cope (1996)
record this species only from the east of the Arabian Peninsula. Collenette’s (1999) record
may be a misidentification.]
Reseda pentagyna Abdallah & A.G.Mill.
Sageretia thea (Osbeck) M.C.Johnst.
Crucianella ciliata Lam.
Crucianella membranacea Boiss.
Pterogaillonia calycoptera (Decne.) Lincz.
Haplophyllum tuberculatum (Forssk.) A.Juss.
Anarrhinum forskallii (J.F.Gmel.) Cufod.
Kickxia acerbiana (Boiss.) Ta
¨ckh. & Boulos
Lindenbergia indica (L.) Kuntze
Verbascum deserticola (Murb.) Hub.-Mor.
Verbascum sheilae Kit Tan [Collenette 9153 (E)]
Verbascum sinaiticum Benth.
Verbascum sp.
Hyoscyamus pusillus L.
Hyoscyamus sp. aff. aureus L.
Lycium shawii Roem. & Schult.
Tamarix aphylla (L.) H.Karst.
Tamarix nilotica (Ehrenb.) Bunge
Typha domingensis Pers.
Anisosciadium lanatum Boiss.
Chaetosciadium trichospermum (L.) Boiss.
Ferula ovina Boiss.
Ferula rutbaensis C.C.Towns.
Ferula sinaica Boiss.
Pycnocycla tomentosa Decne [Collenette 9055 (E)]
Scandix stellata Banks & Sol.
Forsskaolea tenacissima L.
Parietaria alsinifolia Delile
Valerianella oxyrhyncha Fisch. & Mey. [Collenette 6576 (12158-RIY)]
Fagonia indica Burm.f. [Grainger 12635 (RIY)]
Fagonia mollis Delile (syn. Fagonia tristis Sickenb.)
Fagonia ovalifolia Hadidi
Peganum harmala L.
... Currently, there are programmes and initiatives in place for IPAs in many countries, including Western (Blasi et al. 2011;Marignani and Blasi 2012), Central and Eastern Europe (Anderson et al. 2005;Slashchev and Gilyashova 2010;Onyshchenko et al. 2017); Egypt (Shaltout and Eid 2010); and the Arabian Peninsula (Al-Abbasi et al. 2010;Hall et al. 2011;Llewellyn et al. 2011); Asiatic Russia (Artemov 2012;Olonova et al. 2013); Lebanon (Talhouk et al. 2017). IPA programmes allow us to study and protect transboundary biodiversity (Shuka and Malo 2010) and conserve endemic taxa with fragmented distributions (Onyshchenko et al. 2017). ...
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Here, we aimed to identify important plant areas (IPAs) in the Fergana Valley, one of the most densely human-populated regions in Central Asia with a diverse array of endemic and endangered species. The IPA programme in FV aims to identify and protect a global network of plant conservation sites. We conducted a field survey from 2018 to 2021 to re-identify specimens collected from Fergana Valley and stored at the National Herbarium of Uzbekistan (TASH). An analysis of the floristic, geobotanical and collected data allowed for the identification of the badlands in the northern foothills (Chap tract and surrounding areas) as an IPA site. We modified the interpretation of criterion A for IPAs to suit the circumstances of Mountainous Central Asia and documented the distribution of 29 species in the IPAs under these sub-criteria. To our knowledge, this is the first study to identify an IPA in Uzbekistan and provide geographic coordinates with locations for the herbarium specimens used to create the IPA set for Central Asia. Our study provides a foundation for applying future IPAs in this region, addressing specific conservation challenges , such as conserving rare and endangered species that grow outside protected areas and GIS mapping of endemic species.
... In mountainous areas, altitude is an important gradient that drives abiotic factors, such as water, temperature, soil properties and known to affect the spatial patterns of species diversity (Körner, 2000). Mountainous areas have been reported to be an excellent refuge for many rare species (Llewellyn et al., 2011). As reported example, Jabal Qaraqir is the only site in Saudi Arabia where Alcea striata and Salvia palaestina are recorded, whereas Pterocephalus brevisars and Valerianella oxyrhyncha are endemic to Jabal Aja. ...
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... It is part of the Hisma plateau (28.666 0 N & 35.7 0 E) in the Arabian Shield, which covers around 3,699.29km 2 and its geology is composed mainly of late Cambrian and Ordovician sandstone (Image 1). The surveyed area in Bajdah was approximately 42km 2 , which overlie the metamorphosed Precambrian volcanic and volcaniclastic basement rocks of the Arabian Shield, mixed with green schist and sedimentary rock (Llewellyn et al. 2010). The flora composition is represented by several species including Ferula assafoetida, Ficus populifolia, Retama raetam and Capparis cartilaginea (Llewellyn 2013; Aloufi pers. ...
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... That study resulted in the identification of 53 broadly defined IPAs for medicinal plants, with 268 more specific local sites identified. In Arabia, an IPA programme was launched in 2010, adopting a modified set of criteria to that used in Europe (Al-Abbasi et al. 2010) and applied to four Saudi Arabian sites to date (e.g., Llewellyn et al. 2011). In the UK Overseas Territories, 17 IPAs have been identified and documented in the Falkland Islands (Upson 2012;Upson et al. 2016), which have been incorporated into the revised Falkland Islands Government Biodiversity Strategy, and the IPA process has been initiated in several Caribbean islands (Jones 2008;Williams 2009;Linsky 2014). ...
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... It is also affected by unique topography of Saudi Arabia; mountains in the west bordering the Red Sea and desert land in the interior (Najd) eastwards. According to Zahran (1983) , Turki and Olyan (2003), El-Ghanim et al. (2010), Alshammari and Sharawy (2010) and Llewellyn, et al. (2011) the Hail region is characterized by a mean minimum temperature of 10.1°C in January and mean maximum temperature of 31.8°C in August. The wind in the Hail emirate comes from the north or northwest and is a great evaporative force hence causing immense physical damage. ...
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The floristic composition was studied in Al-Odair valley in the Hail province of Saudi Arabia for five years (2010-2014). A total of 99 species of 91 genera distributed over 36 families were recorded in different habitats including desert wadies, mountains wadies, sand dunes and cultivated plots. In the study area, the family Poaceae is represented by the highest number of species (18 species) followed by the Asteraceae (10 species), Fabaceae (8 species), Chenopodiacea (8 species), Brassicaceae (7 species), Solanaceae and Zygophyllaceae (5 species for each), Boraginaceae (3 species) whereas, 14 families are represented by two species and 21 families are represented by a single species. Data of the present study revealed that annuals had the highest contribution than perennials. Regarding the life forms spectra, therophytes and chaemophytes are the dominating life forms of the vegetation spectra in Al-Odair valley region; therophytes represent 55% and chaemophytes 21% of the total species in the study area.
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Encompassing a landmass greater than the rest of the Near East and Eastern Mediterranean combined, the Arabian peninsula remains one of the last great unexplored regions of the ancient world. This book provides the first extensive coverage of the archaeology of this region from c. 9000 to 800 BC. Peter Magee argues that a unique social system, which relied on social cohesion and actively resisted the hierarchical structures of adjacent states, emerged during the Neolithic and continued to contour society for millennia later. The book also focuses on how the historical context in which Near Eastern archaeology was codified has led to a skewed understanding of the multiplicity of lifeways pursued by ancient peoples living throughout the Middle East.
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Introduction As a consequence of employing DNA sequence data and phylogenetic approaches, unprecedented progress has been made in recent years toward a full understanding of the fern tree of life. At the broadest level, molecular phylogenetic analyses have helped to elucidate which of the so-called “fern allies” are indeed ferns, and which are only distantly related (Nickrent et al., 2000; Pryer et al., 2001a; Wikström and Pryer, 2005; Qiu et al., 2006). Slightly more focused analyses have revealed the composition of, and relationships among, the major extant fern clades (Hasebe et al., 1995; Wolf, 1997; Pryer et al., 2004b; Schneider et al., 2004c; Schuettpelz et al., 2006; Schuettpelz and Pryer, 2007). A plethora of analyses, at an even finer scale, has uncovered some of the most detailed associations (numerous references cited below). Together, these studies have helped to answer many long-standing questions in fern systematics. In this chapter, a brief synopsis of vascular plant relationships - as currently understood - is initially provided to place ferns within a broader phylogenetic framework. This is followed by an overview of fern phylogeny, with most attention devoted to the leptosporangiate clade that accounts for the bulk of extant fern diversity. Discussion of finer scale relationships is generally avoided; instead, the reader is directed to the relevant literature, where more detailed information can be found. © Cambridge University Press 2008 and Cambridge University Press 2009.
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The realization of conservation goals requires strategies for managing whole landscapes including areas allocated to both production and protection. Reserves alone are not adequate for nature conservation but they are the cornerstone on which regional strategies are built. Reserves have two main roles. They should sample or represent the biodiversity of each region and they should separate this biodiversity from processes that threaten its persistence. Existing reserve systems throughout the world contain a biased sample of biodiversity, usually that of remote places and other areas that are unsuitable for commercial activities. A more systematic approach to locating and designing reserves has been evolving and this approach will need to be implemented if a large proportion of today's biodiversity is to exist in a future of increasing numbers of people and their demands on natural resources.
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The isolated massif Jabal Bura (Yemen) is home to the largest area of ‘valley forest’ in southwest Arabia's western escarpment mountains. This study surveys the composition of this very rare forest and records the diversity of vascular plant species. It notes the valley forest as the home of several regionally rare species and records new locations for these taxa. A brief analysis of the canopy layer is provided, enabling comparisons with similar vegetation in northeast Africa. The paper discusses the importance of this regionally rare vegetation as well as threats to its conservation.
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An Important Plant Area programme has been initiated for the Arabian region by the IUCN Arabian Plant Specialist Group. The aim of this programme is to assess hotspots of plant diversity in the region and designate the most important as Important Plant Areas. These assessments are conducted on the basis of specific criteria and this paper presents the criteria which have been adopted for the Arabian Peninsula countries of Saudi Arabia, Oman and Yemen. These Arabian criteria differ from those originally developed for Europe, and so they are presented here in full. This paper also discusses the context of the Important Plant Area programme and its ability to provide a framework for conservation planning.
The inspiration for this book came from our ten years of journeys and wanderings through the varied landscapes of Arabia, and in particular through those of its hospitable southeastern corner, Oman. We owe a particular debt to Sultan Qaboos University, which during this time has provided us with both a stimulating working environment and a home. Transliteration of Arabic place and other names into English script is a task fraught with difficulties. We have followed 'accepted' spellings wherever these were not contrary to our common sense, and in other cases we have rendered names into Roman English script using phonetic spellings. Our main task in this respect was to ensure conformity between the fIfteen contributing authors. Diacritical signs have mostly been avoided, since their use is neither widely followed nor readily understood. Arabic words which have been commonly taken into the English language, such as 'sabkha' for a salt flat and 'wadi' for a valley with a seasonal watercourse, are not italicised in usage. However, other Arabic terms which are occasionally used in English but not as widely known, such as harrah for a basaltic lava fIeld and hima for a traditional grazing reserve, are italicised throughout the text.
Plant taxonomy must re-evaluate its outputs in order to be part of an effective response to climate change. Traditional taxonomic works, such as floras and monographs, are not appropriate tools for plant conservation and monitoring programmes. Such outputs need to be more widely supplemented with practical, field-based publications (field guides), which are more suited to providing rapid species identifications in the field. This chapter argues that to be as effective and as inclusive as possible, plant field guides need to be based on images rather than text. Using recent case studies from the Arabian Peninsula, we present a series of practical methods for documenting plant species using digital photography and assess the advantages and disadvantages of digital imagebased identification.
Not all of the early travellers and plant collectors to Arabia shared Aucher-Éloy’s pessimistic musings about the barrenness of the land and its impoverished diversity, although his estimate of the number of species in northern Oman was not far wrong (Ghazanfar 1996a). Theophrastus, probably using accounts brought home by Greek sailors, wrote of the Yemeni highlands in 295 BC that “... the mountains, they say, are lofty, forest-covered and subject to snow, and rivers from them flow down into the plain...” (quoted in Groom 1981, from Hort 1916). Niebuhr (in the introduction to Forsskål 1775) wrote of the valley of Surdud in Yemen that “... surrounded by mountains, and profiting from cool climate and abundant water, [it] was exuberantly rich in plants... ”. In addition to these pleasant impressions, the great trade between southern Arabia and Europe in frankincense, myrrh and spices gained the Arabs of southern Arabia a reputation for great wealth, and their country became known as Arabia Felix (Groom 1981: pp. 9–11), providing the title for Bertram Thomas’ well-known work (1932) of the same name.
Douepea arabica (Hedge & Kit Tan) O. Appel & Al-Shehbaz is a rare and threatened endemic plant species of Saudi Arabia. We present the first field studies of D. arabica in over 2 decades and update the sparse historical data on this important plant species. Surveys of the type locality Wadi Qaraqir and surrounding areas indicate that numbers of D. arabica are low. Although regeneration is occurring in the type locality and a newly recorded locality in the neighbouring Wadi Ghamrah, the extent of occurrence and area of occupancy of D. arabica are restricted. This species appears to be strongly associated with available water sources and the dominant Nerium shrubland in the wadi channels. These are both threatened by increasing agricultural activities and road building in the area. We propose that D. arabica should be categorized as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. We recommend conservation measures for this species, as well as the further research required to implement a conservation action plan.