Palestine – Biodiversity conservation data

    MAIN PHYTOGENETIC RESOURCES OF PALESTINE AND THE MAIN THREATS

    Palestine is at the crossroads of three continents (Africa – Asia – Europe) so is influenced by various geographical eco-zones: the Iranian-Turanian zone (steppe), the Sahara-Arab zone (desert), and the Mediterranean basin. It is even penetrated by the tropical Sudanese zone. This location between Eurasia and Africa makes it a key crossing-point for migratory birds, and it has a rich variety of plant and animal species. Zohary and Feinbrun Dothan (1966-1978) recorded over 4,000 species of Palestinian flora, of which 2,483 are believed to exist in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (Piales, 1996), belonging to 700 genera and 114 families. 1,558 of them are concentrated in the Mediterranean zone and 600 in the desert. Only 6% of the plants are endemic. 43% of the endemic species are common, 27.5% are infrequent and 25.6% are very rare.

    The following table shows the breakdown of genera and species amongst the most frequent families:

    Family No. of genera No. of species

    Asteraceae

    96

    280

    Poaceae

    90

    210

    Fabaceae

    65

    280

    Apiaceae

    53

    102

    Alliaceae

    23

    100

    Source: Flora of Palestine (PEnA, 1999)

    The phytogeographical regions of Palestine are as follows:

    • The Mediterranean zone is covered with evergreen woodlands in which Quercus calliprinos and Pistacia terebinthus predominate. Such woodland formations also include common oak, Aleppo pines (Pinus halepensis) and carob (Ceratonia siliqua) and mastic trees (Pistacia lentiscus). Most of these woodlands have now been destroyed and these species have been replaced by others such as Sarcopoterium spinosum, Cistus spp. Calycotome villosa, Carthamus tenuis and Ononis leiospermum.
    • The Iranian Turanian zone (eastern steppes) covers the eastern part of the West Bank. The main species are Ziziphus lotus, Retama raetam, Artemisia sieberi and Ballota undulata.
    • The Saharan-Arab zone is desert, and the main species are Zygophylletum dumosi and Suadetum asphaltica.
    • The zone under Sudanese influence stretches over the Dead Sea and the Jordan Valley. The main species are Haloxylon salicetum, Phoenix dactylifera, Ziziphus spina-christi, Acacia radianna and Acacia tortilis.

    The decline in biodiversity in Palestine is largely the result of fast development and modernisation, population growth, global warming, atmospheric and water pollution, the incorrect introduction of non-native animals and plants and the destruction of habitats. In addition to the environmental problems that affect the world in general, Palestine also faces special challenges. The Israeli occupation over the last 30 years is largely responsible for the destruction of habitats and biodiversity in Palestine.

    STATUS OF IN-SITU AND EX-SITU CONSERVATION

    In-situ conservation

    Today, 19 nature reserves covering 16,300 hectares (of a total of 43 covering 33,000 ha) have been transferred to the Palestinian Authority. Most of them are located in eastern parts, and many are overlapped by military training areas. Another 3% of the total surface area of the West Bank (17,000 ha) was declared a nature reserve at the Sharm el Sheik exhibition.

    Ex-situ conservation

    Ex-situ conservation of genetic plant material is laid down as a priority in the “National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan for Palestine” (Palestinian Environmental Authority (PenA), 1999).

    The Ministry of Agriculture contributes to ex-situ conservation of genetic resources from fruit trees by setting up facilities to carry out research on fruit trees suitable for the region. The Ministry of the Environment has contributed to ex-situ conservation by creating the Jericho Botanic Garden.

    The University of Al-Quds has a long history of activities and facilities for the conservation of biodiversity in Palestine. There are also national and international non-governmental bodies working in this field through research centres, botanic gardens and seed banks in the country, such as the Biodiversity Environmental and Research Centre (BERC) and the Andalusian Garden, promoted by Spain’s Islamic Culture Foundation (FUNCI).

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