A King Saud University research team combined with an internationally-acclaimed cast of biodiversity researchers and launched an expedition into southwest Saudi Arabia where it will explore the natural environments in ‘Asir Province, Jizan Province and the Farasan Islands.
Biodiversity is the science of evaluating and supporting the ecosystem including air quality, climate, water purification, pollination, the prevention of erosion or simply put, protect the general health of the world. The team will record observations and collect samples to contribute to environmental, genetic, physiological and biological research projects being conducted at world-class universities from Wurzburg, Freiburg, Basel, Copenhagen, London, and Wageningen.
The southwest Saudi assignment represents a major step for the King Saud University’s Distinguished Scientist Fellowship Program (DSFP) and the Center of Excellence for Research in Biodiversity (CERB), directed by Professor Khaled Al-Rasheid. There are 34 identified international and the Eastern Afromontane Region – which spans from Zimbabwe in the south to Saudi Arabia in the north – is one of the newest and uncharted regions in the group.
Diversity hotspots are bio-geographic areas with a high level of endemic species (familiar almost exclusively to the area) including plants, trees, birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. Eastern Afromontane has an estimated species count of 1,300 birds, 7,600 plants, 500 mammals, and 890 amphibians.
The three Saudi areas represent an inviting region for scientific exploration, one featuring striking diversity.
‘Asir Province has the highest peaks in Saudi, fickle daily temperatures ranging from frosty mornings to readings in the 90s by afternoon, generating frequent fog that nurtures much natural vegetation. The province has some dense coniferous forests, but room enough for ample crops of wheat and fruits.
In the Jizan Province, perched on the Red Sea coast, the area has the country’s highest average temperatures, at least in the high 80s eight months of the year and searing 100-plus degree days from June through September. Jizan Province has a large agricultural hinterland and quality tropical fruit including mangos, figs, and papaya.
Juzar Al-Fursan or the Farasan Islands, a series of dozens of islands, is which clear Red Sea waters, home to countless organisms, surround land with white sands around the periphery and native fauna within. The islands are a reserve for Arabian gazelles and a fertile breeding ground for a large variety of birds.
The efforts of the Saudi researchers and others around the world are not to be understated for biodiversity is a key to a healthier world. American Eric S. Chivian, a 1985 Nobel Laureate and co-author of “Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity” put it in perspective two years ago during a talk.
Chivian said that the gastric breeding frog was probably the answer to treating stomach ulcers. “It’s the most ugly and the small things that keep life going,” he said and then added that the gastric frog has been extinct for more than a decade.
Professor Al-Rasheid emphasized that KSU is producing an increasing number of researchers who are being “highly cited” by the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), placing them among the word’s 250 elite researchers in biodiversity. The combination of modern technology and the research and publications of the faculty and researchers, Dr. Al-Rasheid said, it will provide innumerable benefits to KSU students in particular and the nation in general.