Zoology in the Middle East
Supplementum 3, 2011
Biodiversity Conservation in the Arabian Peninsula
(published in cooperation with the Sharjah Environmernt and Protected Areas Authority)
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Philip Seddon, David Mallon, Mike Knight
Zoology in the Middle East Supplementum 3, 2011: 5. | Free download (PDF)
Abdulaziz al Midfa, David Mallon, Kevin Budd
Ten Years of Conservation Workshops for the Fauna of Arabia 2000-2009
Abstract. A series of annual conservation workshops on the fauna of the Arabian Peninsula was initiated in 2000 under the patronage of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah. The 10 workshops held to date have brought together many experts from across the region and outside, fostering cooperation and assessing the regional status of several taxonomic groups. The Arabian Leopard has been a major topic and a region-wide conservation strategy has been produced. The workshops have alos produced the first assessment of Arabian freshwater habitats and since 2007 protected areas have formed an important topic.
Key words: Arabian biodiversity, Sharjah, conservation workshops, protected areas.
David P. Mallon
Global hotspots in the Arabian Peninsula
Abstract. The Hotspot concept was formulated to highlight areas of the world that contain concentrations of endemic species. The effectiveness of this approach applied to the two sectors of global hotspots located in the Arabian Peninsula is examined in the context of overall strategies to conserve the biodiversity of the region. Rates of vertebrate endemism in the region range from 6%-75%. Over 58% of Arabian Peninsula endemic vertebrates have distributions restricted to The Arabian Hotspot Area, compared to a global figure of 42%, and over 77% of these endemics species occur there. These figures highlight the importance of the Arabian Hotspot Area for this aspect of biodiversity conservation, but it excludes large areas of the Arabian Peninsula containing characteristic habitats and species, including Arabian Oryx and Houbara Bustard. Additional approaches are needed to provide a fully representative and comprehensive conservation strategy.
Key words. Hotspot, Arabian Peninsula, vertebrate endemism, conservation strategy.
Khaldoun Al Omari
Protected Areas in the Arabian Peninsula
Abstract. Protected areas help conserve key elements of biodiversity, play a significant role in social and economic development, and embody many practical approaches to participatory and collaborative management. Although approximately 230 protected areas have been legally established in the Arabian Peninsula comprising approximately 900,000 km², this system does not fully reflect the diversity of habitats and species, and the level of management greatly varies from one area to the next. The IUCN Protected Areas Programme helps to guide and enhance the development of adequate regional approaches and models for effective protected area management, with a focus on community participation and involvement at all levels.
Key words. Protected Areas, Arabian Peninsula, Participatory Approaches, IUCN.
Bird flyways and stopover conservation sites in the Arabian Peninsula
Abstract. The Arabian Peninsula is important for migratory bird species crossing between Africa, Asia and Europe. Implementing the flyway approach to conservation, the key sites in the Arabian Peninsula should be identified and protected. In this study the important sites were identified using information published on the migration strategies of individual populations and the data available on the Important Birds Areas (IBA) published in 1994. The results showed that the bottlenecks sites, IBA in the coastal areas, and islands with breeding seabirds are probably the priority sites need argent attention and protection. Factor negatively affecting the migratory species need to be identified and removed. The Wing Over Wetland (WOW) project could be one of the possibilities for miratory birds conservation, as it supports coordination between contries in the flyway and is in the legal framework of international conventions such as Ramsar and AEWA.
Key words. Bird migration, Important Bord Area (IBA), migration bottleneck, winter quarters.
Kay Van Damme, Lisa Banfield
Past and present human impacts on the biodiversity of Socotra Island (Yemen): implications for future conservation
Abstract. The Socotra Archipelago (Yemen) is globally recognized for its outstanding biodiversity and endemism, designated on this basis a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. The island underwent long geological and political isolation, ensuring preservation of unique ecosystems until the start of the new millennium. Now, Socotra Island is undergoing rapid development, out of balance with conservation. Major causes for biodiversity loss in other global insular ecosystems such as habitat fragmentation and degradation, pollution, invasive species and the impact of tourism, are becoming pressing issues that deserve close attention. Unsustainable resource use, the loss of traditional land management and illegal trade in biota are worrying phenomena that further increase the pressures on Socotra’s ecosystems. We provide the first comprehensive review of potential human impacts on Socotra before the 21st century, an updated discussion of some of the principal threats to its biodiversity in recent times, discussing local examples within a historical context of known extinction processes on islands, and underline the importance of traditional knowledge in the protection of Socotran ecosystems.
Key words. Socotra island, conservation, human impact, extinction, biodiversity, invasive species, tourism.
Ahmad M. Disi
Review of the lizard fauna of Jordan (Reptilia: Sauria)
Abstract. The lizard fauna of Jordan is very diverse and forms 55.5% of the terrestrial herpetofauna of the country. Lizard species of Arabian origin form the highest percentage (43%) of the lizards, followed by Saharo-Sindian (35%), Palaearctic (20%) and only 2% with Afrotropical affinities. 69.1% of the lizard species inhabit two ecozones: Badia (Eastern Desert); and Wadi Araba and Wadi Rum. The Badia may form the focal point for the evolution of certain Acanthodactylus species. Jordan forms the southernmost limit of the distribution of some Palaearctic species (i.e. Lacerta media, L. laevis, Pseudopus apodus) and they inhabit the Mediterranean ecozone. The presence of diverse habitats in Jordan allowed certain allopatric congeneric species of the genus Ptyodactylus to live in isolation from one another. Southern Jordan and Wadi Rum are part of the Levantine land bridge and act as a “biogeographical filter”. Most of the species found in Wadi Rum are of Arabian affinities and their distribution does not extend towards the west.
Key words. Jordan, Lizard fauna, zoogeography, biodiversity and conversation.
Jackie Strick, Paul Vercammen, Jacky Judas, Olivier Combreau
Satellite tracking of a rehabilitated Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga
Abstract. A Greater Spotetd Eagle Aquila clanga was rehabilited and released in the UAE. The bird was fitted with a solar-powered satellite transmitter and succesfully tracked from the Arabian Peninsula over Iran to Kazahstan and back to Pakistan.
Key words. Greater Spotted Eagle, Aquila clanga, solar-powered satellite tracking.
Olivier Combreau, Samuel Riou, Jacky Judas, Mark Lawrence
Population structure, migratory connectivity and inference on gene exchange mechanisms in the Asian Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis macqueenii: a summary of recent findings
Abstract. The phylogeographic structure of Asian Houbara revealed by genetic analysis suggests some level of differentiation between south and east Arabian resident populations, Sinai populations and the main bulk of Central Asian migrant and resident populations. Satellite tracking in southernmost populations failed to reveal population exchange with northern population and explains partly the genetic structure observed. Although central Asian birds show population specific migratory patterns and strong philopatry, possibilities of dissemination of genetic material between migrant populations and between migrants and residents exist in year-old birds and in adult birds during migration and could contribute to explain the absence of genetic differentiation between Central Asian populations.
Key words. Phylogeographic structure, satellite tracking, Macqueen’s Bustard, phylopatry.
Carlos A. Fernandes
Colonization time of Arabia by the White-tailed Mongoose Ichneumia albicauda as inferred from mitochondrial DNA sequences (Mammalia: Herpestidae)
Abstract. Given the presence of several species of terrestrial wildlife with an Arabian population separated from their main distribution range, the Arabian Peninsula can be seen as a biogeographic isolate. This arises from its single links with Africa via the Sinai land bridge and the ecological barrier of the Rub’ Al Khali desert to dispersals. In the context of Afro-Arabian biogeography, sub-Saharan and Maghreb populations, for which access to the Sinai land bridge is limited respectively by the eastern Sahara and Libyan deserts, are particularly isolated from their Arabian counterparts. Genetic markers have proved useful in studying the evolutionary history of the Arabian populations. A study of mitochondrial DNA sequence data for the White-tailed Mongoose Ichneumia albicauda (an Afrotropical mammal) suggested a single colonization period of the Arabian Peninsula » 32,500 years ago, making this species a relatively long-term resident and natural colonist of Arabia. Given that colonization of the Arabian Peninsula is estimated to have occurred at a time in which the Red Sea was neither particularly narrow nor shallow, and during a prolonged wet period, the scenario of invasion of Arabia via the Sinai land bridge is perhaps more likely. However, the hypothesis that the Arabian founders derived from a successful landing of a sweepstake-rafting event across the southern Red Sea, difficult to validate or falsify as it is, cannot be categorically rejected. Importation and release of individuals from Africa in the peninsula is thus strongly advised against since it could obliterate a unique evolutionary history.
Key words. Ichneumia albicauda, White-tailed Mongoose, Afro-Arabian zoogeography, phylogeography, mitochondrial DNA, colonization, Arabia
M. Zafar-ul Islam, Khairi Ismail, Ahmed Boug
Restoration of the endangered Arabian Oryx Oryx leucoryx, Pallas 1766 in Saudi Arabia: lessons learnt from the twenty years of re-introduction in arid fenced and unfenced protected areas (Mammalia: Artiodactyla)
Abstract. In Saudi Arabia, a conservation and restoration programme for Oryx Oryx leucoryx, Pallas, 1766 was started in 1989 by the Saudi Wildlife Commission (formerly the National Commission for Wildlife Conmservation and Development). Concurrent conservation programmes were launched for the protection of large areas within the former range of the Arabian Oryx, and captive breeding at the National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC). Together, these have enabled the restoration of wild self-sustaining populations of Arabian Oryx in Saudi Arabia using animals from the ‘World Herd’ to improve their genetic variability. The success of the oryx conservation programme is described here together with the constraints faced in the arid environments and the consequent lessons learnt. As rainfall has a strong influence on the presence of annual plants, it is the single most important factor in the production of grazing. Poor rainfall had a major detrimental impact on forage in the re-introduction sites from 1999 to 2008 and mortality of oryx was higher during this period. As oryx historically moved over great distances in response to rain, the fence around one site, the Mahazat as-Sayd Protected Area, prevents natural movements of animals and artificially concentrates ungulate populations into seasonally unfavourable habitat. We propose some management strategies to minimize mortalities in the wild, and assesses post-release monitoring and adoption of various estimation techniques to assess oryx populations in both the fenced and free-ranging areas. As poaching is still a problem, strict law enforcement and a public-awareness programme to inform citizens of the biological and historical significance of the Arabian Oryx is recommended.
Key words. Arabian Oryx, reintroduction success, drought related mortalities of ungulates, species management strategy, Saudi Arabia.
Jane Budd, Kristin Leus
The Arabian Leopard Panthera pardus nimr conservation breeding programme
Abstract. Captive breeding has the potential to play a pivotal role in conserving threatened species, among others by providing a healthy “safety net” population with which to buffer dwindling numbers in the wild. The Arabian Leopard Panthera pardus nimr is Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. Captive breeding is an essential component of conservation for this species. Many experts are of the opinion that the chances for survival of the Arabian Leopard in the wild are much reduced without the potential for reintroduction of animals. The captive breeding programme has been operating on a regional level since 1999, although the first Arabian Leopards registered in the studbook were caught in 1985. The current living population consists of 42 males, 32 females, and three unsexed leopards; nineteen are wild caught (of which 3 are siblings) and a substantial number of these do not actively participate in the breeding programme. The program focuses on ensuring a genetically sound population that closely resembles the wild population. Current and predicted trends within the population are compared with recommended trends and graphically illustrated using dedicated population management software, PM2000.
Key words. Captive breeding, Arabian Leopard, population trend, population modelling.
Captive breeding and conservation
Abstract. Captive breeding is one of a myriad of tools at the disposal of conservationists. It can fulfil specific tasks that should be an integral part of the overall conservation action plan for a species. Captive breeding and other types of intensive management of individuals and populations often become necessary when human caused threats (habitat destruction, exploitation etc.) have caused the population of a species to become so small and fragmented that even if the human caused threats could be magically reversed, the species would still have a high probability of extinction purely due to random demographic and genetic events, environmental variation and catastrophes; or when the continuing, unchecked decline in population size indicates that this will soon become the case. Provided sufficient knowledge on the biology and husbandry of the species exists, breeding individuals in the relative safety of captivity, under expert care and sound management may provide an insurance against extinction, and/or a stock for reintroduction or reinforcement efforts, and/or opportunities for education, raising of awareness, scientific and husbandry research and other contributions to conservation. Important challenges include recognising when “the time is right”, identifying the precise role of the captive breeding efforts within the overall conservation action plan, setting realistic targets in terms of required time spans, population sizes, founder numbers, resources etc., ensuring sound management and cooperation and developing much needed new technical methods and tools. The above is illustrated with examples from the Arabian Peninsula.
Key words. Ex situ, population targets, genetic management.
Mark R Stanley Price
Re-introductions in today’s Arabian Peninsula: The first steps for a grander vision?
Abstract. This paper is a personal view, deriving from the knowledge base of the Arabian Peninsula’s fauna, the record on re-introduction of Arabian Oryx and Houbara Bustard, and selective conservation actions for the region’s species, to propose an ambitious vision for restoring the region’s key ecosystems through re-wilding, a holistic approach for biodiversity conservation. It is argued that the need is urgent and the time is right, and that various circumstances and opportunities are now favourable. The prospect is for the Arabian Peninsula to maintain its roles as home to specialised species, to continue to act as a sanctuary and crossroads for species from three major neighbouring biological realms, and to be a potential refuge in the face of climate change.
Key words. challenge, re-wilding, predation, ecosystem processes, attitudes, society.
Matthew Hall, Anthony G. Miller
Strategic requirements for plant conservation in the Arabian Peninsula
Abstract. This paper briefly evaluates the activities of the Arabian Plant Specialist Group (APSG), which were initiated in response to the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC). For the Arabian Peninsula countries of Oman, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, substantial progress has been made towards meeting the 2010 targets of a regional plant checklist, an IUCN Red List and a programme of identifying and describing Important Plant Areas. A proposal to revise the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation for 2011-2020 is considered with respect to the strategic requirements for successfully implementing a revised strategy in the Arabian Region. Particular attention is paid to the development of online identification tools, to the widespread collection of biodiversity data and the education and training required for ensuring that conservation initiatives in the region are viable in the long term.
Key words. Plant conservation, Arabian Peninsula, Arabian Plant Specialist Group (APSG).
Michael H. Knight, Philip J. Seddon, Abdulaziz Al Midfa
Transboundary conservation initiatives and opportunities in the Arabian Peninsula
Abstract. This paper summarizes the status of and opportunities for transboundary conservation areas (TBCAs) in the Arabian Peninsula. Although there has been limited development of TBCAs in the Peninsula, the concept is seen regionally as valuable to: encourage collaboration and co-operation between conservation partners; provide a shared vision; enable joint and effective ecosystem management in a larger system; encourage social, economic and ecological partnerships; facilitate the development of a sustainable sub-regional economic base; and increase international cooperation at multiple inter-government levels. Three potential sites have been identified, each focused around a charismatic species for the region: The conservation of dugongs in the marine environment from the Gulf of Bahrain to the United Arab Emirates (UAE); the conservation of Endangered Arabian Oryx Oryx leucoryx in the UAE-Saudi Arabia-Oman border area; and the conservation of Critically Endangered Arabian Leopard Panthera pardus nimr in the Yemen-Oman terrestrial borders. There has been a call for a champion, such as the Sharjah government, to drive the process at the inter-government level, with representatives of relevant conservation authorities facilitating activities at the local level.
Key words. Transboundary conservation areas, TBCA, Arabian Peninsula, Arabian Oryx, Arabian Tahr, Arabian Leopard, Dugong, conservation.
Stephen Holness, Mike Knight, Mark Sorensen, Yasser Ramadan Ahmed Othman
Towards a systematic conservation plan for the Arabian Peninsula
Abstract. Geographical Information Systems (GIS) based systematic conservation planning can form the basis for prioritizing conservation actions in a strategic and efficient manner. However, to date in the Arabian Peninsula conservation plans have generally taken an ad hoc approach to prioritizing actions spatially. Previous Sharjah Conservation Workshops highlighted this gap in our understanding of the spatial patterns of biodiversity across the Arabian Peninsula, and in particular identified the need to specify areas where conservation priorities that cross-national boundaries exist, and which may be best addressed using a Transboundary Conservation Area (TBCA) approach. Therefore a GIS and systematic conservation planning workshop was held as part of the 2010 Conference on Biodiversity Conservation in the Arabian Peninsula in order to test the potential for conducting a rapid systematic conservation assessment for the Peninsula. This paper outlines the concept and benefits of systematic conservation planning, reports on the process, data analyses and initial outputs of the GIS and systematic conservation planning workshop, and charts the way forward for developing a more robust assessment for the Arabian Peninsula.
Key words. Systematic conservation planning, reserve expansion, threatened species, Geographical Information Systems, GIS.