Yemen, rich in flora & fauna biodiversity [Archives:2004/762/Health]

August 9 2004

Ismail Al-Ghabiri
According to an initial survey, the country contains more than 2810 plant species, which are belonging to 1006 genera and 173 families. Out of these plant species, 415 are endemic and do not occur elsewhere. The richness of Yemeni biodiversity may be attributed to the following reasons:
Yemen has a unique position in the Arabian peninsula where a mixture of flora of the tropical Africa, as well as plants from the Sardinian geographical region, have taken root.
The large diversity of species is the result of the considerable climatic changes, which have taken place over time. This has enabled different species to survive in the large variety of habitats offered by Yemen and characterized by some steep mountains dissected by narrow wadis thus creating some highly isolated habitats that favor the formation of endemic species.
The large diversity is also the result of the large climatic variation found within Yemen, varying from desert conditions to sub-humid tropical conditions.

Hawf background
Hawf is a 30,000 ha mountainous area, with a maximum elevation of 1400 m, running parallel with the Gulf of Aden coast and extending for about 60 km from Ras Fartek in the west of Yemen to the border with Oman. Due to its unique orograhic position – included climate – the area is covered by a lush, monsoon forest, and is surrounded by an arid ecosystem in the rain shadow. It is only forest of its type in Yemen and also, along with the contiguous area beyond the Omani border, is the only forest of this type in the region. It is the habitat for a number of unique and threatened species of plants and animals. The area as a whole including Dhofar region in Oman and Hawf region in Yemen has been described as a center of plant diversity, and as a “Fog oasis” in the Arabian Peninsula which is predominantly arid.

Within Yemen, the Hawf pilot area constitutes one of the largest areas with a high tree cover and a high plant and animal diversity. Current threats mainly result from rapid population increase in the area and the absence of alternative income opportunities other than expansion of intensified of agriculture and pastoralism in the area itself.