How forest conservation is helping Saudi Arabia achieve its green objectives

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A view of "Tahlal” mountains in Rijal Almaa governorate, in the southwestern province of Asir. (SPA)
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Mountain forests are predominantly located in the region spanning the Hijaz Mountains in Taif to Jazan in the south. (SPA)
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Mountain forests are predominantly located in the region spanning the Hijaz Mountains in Taif to Jazan in the south. (SPA)
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Updated 18 May 2024
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How forest conservation is helping Saudi Arabia achieve its green objectives

  • By planting trees and protecting forests, the Kingdom promotes biodiversity and sustainable development
  • Forests provide habitats for hundreds of animal species and play a pivotal role in combating climate change 

JEDDAH: With its low annual rainfall, much of Saudi Arabia’s vast landscape is covered by desert, broken by occasional oases. In its mountainous regions, valleys, and along its coastline, however, the Kingdom is home to multiple forest ecosystems.

Forests play a pivotal role in combating climate change by acting as carbon sinks — storing carbon both above and below ground, thereby extracting it from the atmosphere, where it would otherwise contribute to the greenhouse effect.

Their significance in climate change adaptation and mitigation is also underscored by their role in creating local microclimates, providing habitats for a wealth of biodiversity, locking in freshwater resources, and preventing flash floods, landslides, and soil degradation.




Riyadh residents take part in a tree-planting project as part of the Greener Home initiative. (@Riyadh_Green/File)

Saudi Arabia’s National Center for Vegetation Cover Development and Combating Desertification is at the forefront of implementing the Kingdom’s strategic goals outlined in Vision 2030.

“Forests play a crucial role in mitigating climate change,” Samir Malaika, assistant director-general of the general administration of forests at NCVC told Arab News. “Saudi Arabia’s dry climate and geography hinder its efforts to conserve forests and promote plant growth.

“With most areas receiving minimal rainfall, forests struggle to thrive. The escalating impact of climate change exacerbates environmental stressors, hampering forest growth and regeneration efforts.”

The NCVC aims to elevate living standards by reducing pollution and facilitating the restoration of degraded environments. It is also committed to building resilience against natural hazards and defenses against harmful pests that could pose risks to vegetation.

Simultaneously, it prioritizes the sustainable development of the Kingdom’s natural resources. With seven ongoing initiatives, it aims to ensure the responsible and lasting utilization of resources in line with the nation’s sustainability objectives.

Among the center’s key initiatives under the Saudi Green Initiative is a scheme to plant some 10 billion trees — representing a significant step in the Kingdom’s reforestation effort.

The initiative for forest management and sustainable development by 2030 underscores a long-term commitment to nurturing and preserving woodland environments.

The phased approach to preserving and restoring vegetation in pasture areas reflects a strategic focus on addressing the specific ecological challenges faced by different ecosystems.

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Furthermore, the initiative for developing vegetation and infrastructure for 50 national parks highlights the importance of creating protected natural spaces while promoting biodiversity and ecotourism.

Moreover, the initiative to plant 7 million wild trees in royal reserves demonstrates a targeted effort to enhance the natural habitats within these pristine areas.

Engagement by the public and private sectors in vegetation development and combating desertification underscores the collaborative approach needed in order to achieve sustainable environmental goals.




One initiative of the National Center for Vegetation Cover Development and Combating Desertification with the aim of achieving sustainable forest management is to tap local community participation in agroforestry projects and by promotingecotourism. (Photo Courtesy: NCVC)

By harnessing the collective resources and expertise of various stakeholders, these initiatives aim to create a resilient and thriving ecosystem that benefits both present and future generations.

According to Malaika, Saudi Arabia boasts a forest coverage spanning approximately 2,768,050 hectares, primarily concentrated in the southern and southwestern regions, along riverbeds, and on the coastlines of the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf.

These forest ecosystems are categorized into three primary types: mountain, valley, and mangrove.

Mountain forests

Mountain forests are predominantly located in the region spanning the Hijaz Mountains in Taif to Jazan in the south. These areas have neutral soil acidity and receive the highest rainfall and humidity levels, particularly evident in the southwest with denser forest cover.




The juniper tree has proudly stood as a symbol of picturesque beauty in Al-Baha region, adorning its slopes and mountain peaks with vibrant green hues. (SPA)

Forests are made up of several Juniperus plant species, typically found at altitudes of 2,000 meters and above. Additionally, Olea chrysophylla forests, characterized by wild olive trees with golden leaves, thrive at altitudes of 1,500 to 2,000 meters.

At lower altitudes, between 1,000 to 1,500 meters, Acacia plant species dominate the landscape.

Notably, terraced agriculture is a common feature of mountainous regions, facilitating crop fruit tree cultivation while aiding in water retention and soil protection. However, improper management can lead to land degradation, adversely affecting the surrounding forests.

DID YOUKNOW?

• Saudi Arabia is home to more than 63 unique ecosystems, ranging from mountainous regions to coastal lowlands.

• The Kingdom boasts a diverse array of wildlife, including 78 terrestrial mammal species and 499 species of bird.

• Coral reefs in Saudi Arabian waters host an impressive 266 species, contributing to marine biodiversity.

• With more than 6,500 species, Saudi Arabia’s invertebrate population testifies to the richness of its ecosystems.

• Saudi Arabia boasts three distinct forest ecosystems: mountain forest, valley forest, and mangrove forest.

Valley forests

Saudi Arabia’s topography features 179 valleys distributed across the country. Valley forests, mainly situated in semi-arid regions, are characterized by species such as Acacia ehrenbergiana, Acacia tortilis, Maerua crassifolia, several species of Commiphora, and Salvadora persica.

Additionally, oases and valleys are abundant with various Acacia species, Ziziphus spina-christi, Salvadora persica, Haloxylon persicum, trees, shrubs, and Hyphaene thebaica. 




Saudi Arabia’s topography features 179 valleys distributed across the country. (AN file photo)

Mangrove forests

Mangroves and coastal ecosystems tolerant to saltwater are predominantly located along the Red Sea coast, with other stretches found along the Arabian Gulf coast.

Despite the lack of comprehensive forest data, studies indicate significant degradation of the mangrove ecosystem.

Avicennia marina is the most prevalent species in mangrove forests, with Rhizophora mucronata being less common.

Besides these natural forests, the Kingdom is also host to many urban and cultivated woodlands in its parks and residential neighborhoods, planted to provide shade, reduce temperatures, and beautify city streets.

Despite the Kingdom’s diverse ecosystems, it faces significant challenges in preserving and expanding its forests, including limited resources, poor local management, insufficient nursery production to meet seedling demand, a lack of awareness about dumping and unauthorized grazing, and other irresponsible human activities.

The Saudi National Center for Wildlife is working to protect, develop, and restore ecosystems and biodiversity around the Kingdom, in addition to addressing risks related to plant and animal life.




Red Sea Global implemented a nursery project with the goal to have 50 million trees of Mangroves by 2030. (Red Sea Global photo/File)

According to Abdulmanea Al-Qahtani, invertebrates department director at the NCW, the Kingdom has 63 distinct ecosystems, encompassing a diverse range of landscapes, including mountains, plains, deserts, valleys, forests, seas, wetlands, plateaus, coastal areas, and marshes, all teeming with biodiversity.

The Kingdom is home to 78 species of terrestrial mammal, 499 species of bird, 136 species of reptile, seven species of amphibian, and more than 6,500 species of invertebrate.

In its waters, the Kingdom also offers habitats to 19 species of marine mammal, eight species of freshwater fish, 1,248 species of saltwater fish, and 266 species of coral




Unknown to many, Saudi Arabia is home to 78 species of terrestrial mammal, 499 species of bird, 136 species of reptile, seven species of amphibian, and more than 6,500 species of invertebrate. (NCW collage image)

The Saudi Green Initiative, launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2021 under the Vision 2030 framework, aims to tackle threats to this rich biodiversity and foster sustainable development.

Key goals include transitioning to a sustainable economy by reducing carbon emissions, boosting renewable energy production, and bolstering conservation efforts.

Additionally, the initiative aims to enhance environmental protection, promote green technologies, and create green jobs to drive economic diversification and growth.
 

 


King Abdulaziz Foundation organizes Saudi-Chinese relations seminar in Beijing

Updated 37 sec ago
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King Abdulaziz Foundation organizes Saudi-Chinese relations seminar in Beijing

  • Seminar discussed maritime trade between two countries, role of Chinese libraries in caring for Arabic manuscripts

LONDON: The King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives, organized a scientific seminar on cultural and economic relations between Saudi Arabia and China from June 19-23 in Beijing, Saudi Press Agency reported.
The seminar was held as part of the Beijing International Book Fair, which featured the Kingdom as the guest of honor. It discussed a variety of topics, including maritime trade between the two countries and its cultural and economic implications, the role of Chinese libraries in caring for Arabic manuscripts and preserving Arab heritage, and Arab heritage in China.
Numerous agreements of cooperation in the fields of energy, trade, and investment have strengthened the two countries' strategic partnership. Both countries participated in initiatives aimed at boosting global trade, including joint projects to develop ports, railways, and industrial zones.
Cultural exchanges and academic programs have helped to improve understanding between the two peoples, and Saudi Vision 2030 has broadened the scope of economic cooperation with China in areas such as technology, renewable energy, and infrastructure development.
 


Saudi Arabia to host 56th International Chemistry Olympiad

Updated 32 min 11 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia to host 56th International Chemistry Olympiad

  • Participation of more than 340 students expected 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is set to host the 56th International Chemistry Olympiad, with participation from more than 340 students and 400 university professors and chemistry teachers from 90 countries, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The prestigious event, which will run from July 21-30 at King Saud University, is organized by the Ministry of Education, and King Abdulaziz and his Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity, and boasts exclusive sponsorship from the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation.

The event is a global chemistry competition in which talented high-school students from around the world compete in the subject. It aims to inspire interest in the subject through the solving of complex and creative chemistry problems; promote international communication in the field; and foster friendships among young science enthusiasts from diverse nationalities.

It will mark the first time Saudi Arabia has hosted the event.

Secretary-General of Mawhiba Amal bint Abdullah Al-Hazzaa said Saudi Arabia’s hosting of the olympiad was testament to the Kingdom’s commitment to supporting talent, science, and innovation, in line with the goals of Vision 2030.

Al-Hazzaa added that Mawhiba had prepared for the event through several parallel tracks, including strengthening coordination with partners to ensure an exceptional hosting experience; preparing talented students for strong competition; and aiming to achieve new milestones for the nation.

Members of the International Steering Committee for the International Chemistry Olympiad praised the Kingdom’s comprehensive preparations during a recent visit to Riyadh.

Their visit included meeting the Saudi minister of education, who launched the awareness campaign for the event in January.

The Kingdom has collected 14 silver and 25 bronze medals at the event in the past, and the Saudi team secured four prestigious awards at the 2023 International Chemistry Olympiad in Switzerland.
 


MAWANI and REVIVA establish recycling and industrial waste complex at Jeddah Islamic Port

MAWANI signed on Sunday a SR30million contract with Reviva to establish a complex for recycling marine and industrial waste.
Updated 57 min 41 sec ago
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MAWANI and REVIVA establish recycling and industrial waste complex at Jeddah Islamic Port

  • Contract is part of the efforts exerted by MAWANI to promote environmental sustainability and maintain the safety of the marine environment

RIYADH: The Saudi Ports Authority, MAWANI, signed on Sunday a SR30million ($8 million) contract with the Global Environmental Management Services Ltd., or Reviva, to establish a complex for recycling marine and industrial waste at Jeddah Islamic Port.

The president of MAWANI, Omar bin Talal Hariri, and the CEO of of the Saudi Investment Recycling Co., Ziad bin Mohammed Al-Shiha, signed the contract in the presence of a number of other officials.

According to the Saudi Press Agency, the contract is part of the efforts exerted by MAWANI to promote environmental sustainability, maintain the safety of the marine environment, and build a sustainable maritime sector that enhances the Kingdom’s position as a global logistics center and a hub connecting three continents.

The implementation of the contract comes in line with the National Transport and Logistics Strategy and the Green Port Initiative. The new complex will contribute to enhancing the transformation of waste into valuable resources while building a thriving circular economy in the Kingdom.

According to SPA, these objectives can be met by providing comprehensive waste management and recycling solutions, industrial maintenance and transportation services, and recycling by-products. As such, waste volume is significantly reduced while waste management and environmental conservation improves.

The strategic cooperation scales up the outcomes of efforts exerted to achieve waste management goals in the Kingdom in line with Saudi Vision 2030. It also increases the private sector’s contribution to supporting economic development and listing Jeddah Islamic Port under the Top 10 ports in the world.

MAWANI is keen to introduce pioneering initiatives directly related to the Saudi Green Initiative which aims to reduce emissions, address climate change, and enhance the partnership between the public and private sectors to expand the related scope of work and thus, improve the commercial attractiveness of the Kingdom’s ports in the eyes of the whole world.


National Cybersecurity Authority joins UN Security Council talks

Updated 23 June 2024
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National Cybersecurity Authority joins UN Security Council talks

  • The Kingdom emphasized the importance of striving to create a safe and reliable cyberspace

RIYADH: The Saudi National Cybersecurity Authority participated in a high-level open discussion session held by the UN Security Council titled “Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Addressing Evolving Threats in Cyberspace.”

Senior officials and permanent representatives of member states of the UN, as well as the secretary-general of the organisation, Antonio Guterres, participated in the session.

Leading the Saudi delegation was the Kingdom’s permanent representative to the UN, Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Wasil. The delegation included representatives from the cybersecurity authority, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The session addressed developing a common understanding among states on enhancing the role of the Security Council in addressing cyberthreats, in light of the Security Council’s primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security, taking into account the potential threat to international peace and security posed by malicious activities in cyberspace.

The Kingdom emphasized the importance of striving to create a safe and reliable cyberspace that enables growth and prosperity, especially since enhancing cybersecurity is essential to protect the vital interests of countries as well as national security.


Jeddah Season 2024 launching June 27

Jeddah Season 2024 will launch next week under the slogan “Once Again.” (@JEDCalendar)
Updated 23 June 2024
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Jeddah Season 2024 launching June 27

  • Jeddah Season 2024 will offer a variety of entertainment, tourism and cultural activities

JEDDAH: Jeddah Season 2024 will launch next week under the slogan “Once Again,” the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The opening ceremony will be held on June 27 at 9:30 p.m. in the Art Promenade area located within the Jeddah Waterfront.

According to the SPA, Jeddah Season 2024 will offer a variety of entertainment, tourism and cultural activities. Events will be held in several designated areas, including the City Walk, which offers a diverse mix of interactive experiences, motor and skill games, Arabic plays, concerts, restaurants, cafes and shops.

The season will feature Warner Bros. Discovery: Celebrate Every Story, held for the first time in the Kingdom, offering a mix of games and entertainment shows. The family-friendly attraction features renowned stories and characters under one roof.

The 2024 Jeddah Season will also host numerous events at Imagine Monet and Prince Majid Park, as well as international concerts.

The event map, set to be unveiled, includes activities such as live artistic and cultural performances, and entertainment, sports and tourism activities.