Environment Society of Oman – Projects: Terrestrial

 

For a desert country, the land mass of Oman hosts a remarkably diverse flora and fauna, due to its varied geology and differing climates. Pressures on wildlife habitat are often greatest in areas where the human population has expanded. In some places increased numbers of domestic animals now share natural vegetation with wild animals. In other less populated desert regions there has been pressure from oil and mineral exploitation. The environmental impact on these areas may be more damaging where the natural food chains are most fragile.

The ESO aims to spread understanding about the many issues among those people who can either damage or enhance the place where they live and work. Illegal hunting is carried out by a few people who do not understand the global importance of Omani wildlife, so Project Wa’al has been designed to spread awareness about Oman’s only near-endemic large mammal species.

Trees are Nature’s skyscrapers, benign tower blocks where many levels of the natural food chain live and thrive. They protect smaller plants, stop soil erosion and help to keep it fertile. There has been a tendency to use foreign tree species for landscaping because they grow more quickly, but they can waste water and do not support the full spectrum of Oman’s wildlife. Project Shajar has been set up to counter some unwelcome trends of recent development.

The Landscape is the cloak under which all terrestrial biodiversity lives. Look after its beauty and people will respect all that lies within it. Project Manadhir aims to make people aware of landscape issues.

Project Wa’al

Aim: To raise public awareness of the importance conservation of the Wa’al al ‘Arabi (Hemitragus jayakari).

Issues:

The Wa’al, unique to the northern Oman mountains including the UAE, from Jebel Qahwan near Sur to Musandam, is classified internationally as Endangered.

Despite active protection in some areas, its survival is threatened by loss and/or fragmentation of habitat through development, competition by domestic livestock and by illegal hunting. Despite this, no protected area for conservation of the Wa’al has yet been established by Royal Decree, with an approved management plan funded and being implemented.

The public perception of the Wa’al is that it is ‘some kind of goat of little importance.’ Despite efforts over the years, few realise it is endemic to northern Oman and the UAE mountains.

Elements:

  • Possible field trip to the Omani Mammals Breeding Centre, Bait al Barakah. Numbers limited
  • Leaflets and posters for children explaining importance of the Wa’al.
  • Organise an exhibition promoting awareness.
  • Media coverage

How You Can Help:

  • Arranging logistics for field trips
  • Fundraising for the exhibition to include printing of photographs and setting up professional photomontage
  • Design and printing of leaflets and posters

 

Project Shajar

Aim: To raise public awareness of the importance of native plants, especially trees, to Oman’s biodiversity, both positive and negative.

Issues (Beneficial Trees):

All trees absorb pollution, provide shade for people and animals, nectar for bees and habitat for other insects. Native trees, however, form part of the natural food chain of Oman, and are generally more drought and disease resistant than foreign trees, and use less water.

Few people realise that fruit trees grown in Oman are foreign species, despite having been here for hundreds of years. As most fruit species, date palms consume a lot of water. Their main importance is as part of the traditional cultural landscapes. Thus it is more important to conserve existing traditional plantations, because of their aesthetic value, than to plant new date palms.

We can benefit Oman’s natural environment by switching away from foreign ornamental and fruit trees and, instead, using the true native Omani species for landscaping, especially the four key species of the Omani plains: the Ghaf, Simr, Sidr and Sarh.

Elements:

  • Lectures
  • Produce bilingual leaflets
  • Arabic media interviews
  • Collect data on propagation of native plants in co-operation with SQU, MRMEWR and MAFR.
  • Produce booklet on propagation of native plants, especially trees.
  • Organize exemplary native tree-planting days, focused on schools, with media focus on them.
  • Develop an annual tree-planting day, with continuously increasing numbers of projects through the season from October to March.
  • Possible annual competition for native tree-planting achievement could be established, the prize funded by corporate sponsors.

How You Can Help:

  • Design, translate and print leaflets
  • Fundraising
  • Collecting seeds of Omani trees
  • Growing young Omani trees from seeds or cuttings at home for use for landscaping
  • Organize a tree-planting project in your area

Issues (Environmentally Hostile Trees or Invasive Species):

Invasion by Prosopis juliflora (Ghaf bahri) This fast growing tree, known as Mesquite in some countries and a native of Central America, invades the habitat of other plants by emitting a chemical from its leaves and flowers. The chemical stops the seeds of other species from germinating, enabling the tree to spread unopposed. Successful action has been taken to eradicate it in Dhofar, by use of heavy machinery to lift it out by the roots and let it die in the sun. Continuous follow-up action is needed as the seeds can remain viable in the ground for at least seven years.

Invasion by Leucaena leucocephala (Ghuwayf)
This tree, known by some as the ‘Speedy Tree’, is very fast growing and difficult to eradicate, though it is not yet as widespread as the Ghaf Bahri. It is currently a problem in domestic gardens in Muscat.

Elements:

  • Lectures
  • Arabic media interviews
  • Bilingual leaflets
  • Eradication days in specific areas, focused on Prosopis juliflora with commercial company support to provide plant (JCBs etc.) to uproot trees in designated areas.
  • Removal of dead, dried trees by bedu firewood dealers.
  • Follow-up action by volunteers to check re-seeding.

How You Can Help:

  • Design and printing leaflets
  • Fundraising
  • Choose sites for, set up and lead eradication projects including follow-up monitoring teams and local bedu dead wood disposal teams.
  • Identify contractors who will give machinery hours for uprooting target trees.

 

Project Manadhir

Aim: To raise public awareness about the economic and aesthetic importance of Oman’s natural and cultural landscapes.

Issues:

Oman is blessed by fabulous landscapes. Traditional cultural landscapes have been scarred by development and have largely been lost. However the fragmented effort to conserve elements of the landscape through different ministries or other Government agencies, has left this immensely important aspect of the environment without proper protection.

There is no mention of landscape protection within the Royal Decrees protecting Oman’s environment. Regarded by some environmentalists as a subjective matter, it is not given the economic priority needed. Yet tourism is one of the few sustainable sources of income to the National Economy for the future as fossil fuel extraction diminishes.

The protection is possible through the current Environment Impact Assessment procedures. But their implementation is the responsibility of Government. The ESO can assist this process by increasing public awareness of the importance of landscape conservation, through dissemination of appropriate material through the media, funded by interested bodies. The latter are mainly those involved in the tourist industry and individuals who appreciate and care about the beauty of Oman.

Elements:

  • Little direct action by the ESO is possible.
  • Awareness has to be increased by presentations, seminars, field trips to see examples of avoidable degradation and general support for any action taken by ministries to support this concept.
  • A second phase could be the establishment of an annual prize for landscape conservation, measured by mitigation of adverse impacts carried out during the previous year. Measures could, for example, include community re-painting of new houses in a particular haarah to match traditional ones. ESO would only facilitate such a competition, not fund the measures taken.
  • Pilot schemes in this field would have the greatest impact on public opinion.

How You Can Help:

  • Organisation of presentations, seminars and field trips
  • Meetings with ministries
  • Formulate ideas for annual prize
  • Translation of existing presentations
 

This piece is taken from the website of the Environment Society of Oman.

See on-line at: http://www.environment.org.om/projects_terrestrial.php

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3 Responses to “Environment Society of Oman – Projects: Terrestrial”

  1. Dr Euan Arnott Says:

    Dear Sir,

    I am a UK National who has a strong personal interest in the growth and botany of some plants occurring in Oman (especially the genera Boswellia and Commiphora). Viable seeds of these plants seem difficult or impossible to obtain commercially.

    I would be interested in obtaining some seeds of these plants: can you advise me whether there is any branch of the Omani government which might be able to help me in my efforts?

    If no approved seed source for expot exists in Oman already, I would also like to enquire how one would arrange a seed-collecting permit to travel to Oman myself to collect seeds.

    Omani Government-approved sale of sustainably harvested seeds of these native Omani plants could prove to be a useful addition to Oman’s portfolio of exports, as well as assisting with ex situ conservation of species of wide botanical interest.

    Many thanks for your assistance,

    Dr Euan Arnott
    Cheshire (UK)

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