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

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.


• 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.


Saudi authorities thwart drug smuggling operations

Updated 20 June 2024

Saudi authorities thwart drug smuggling operations

Arab News RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s drug control authority seized large quantities of narcotics and arrested several people involved in smuggling following a number of operations across the Kingdom, reported Saudi Press Agency.

Border guards in Asir province thwarted an attempt to smuggle 123 kg of hashish and 89,355 narcotic tablets, while in Jazan four Ethiopian nationals were arrested for trafficking 75 kg of qat.

In Riyadh, the General Directorate of Narcotics Control arrested two Pakistani residents attempting to sell 26 kg of methamphetamine.

Saudi security authorities are urging people to report any activities related to drug smuggling or promotion by calling 911 in the Makkah, Riyadh and Eastern Province regions, and 999 in the rest of the Kingdom.

Alternatively, information can be emailed to [email protected]. All reports are treated in confidence.

The art of playing the drums — a popular part of Najran cultural heritage

Updated 20 June 2024

The art of playing the drums — a popular part of Najran cultural heritage

RIYADH: Drumming is an important and popular part of cultural heritage in Najran, especially during holidays and special occasions.

The art of playing the drums is considered one of the most famous and creative Najran dances and is the only one in which all vocal and movement arts are included. 

Drummers begin collectively in a single straight row as they move in harmony to the beat of drums and tambourines while chanting. 

The dancers then divide into two rows, one beating tambourines and the other the drums. At the same time, they chant poetic verses with a range of melodies and rhythms.

Najran’s cultural dancers once again enthralled families and visitors during this year’s Eid Al-Adha celebrations, treating them to an exhilarating performance.

AI-enhanced visual medical service proved useful during Hajj

Updated 20 June 2024

AI-enhanced visual medical service proved useful during Hajj

  • The service uses a high-tech capsule to conduct the necessary medical examinations within six minutes for each individual

RIYADH: A high-tech visual medical service trialed by the Saudi Ministry of Interior on security personnel during this year’s Hajj season proved successful, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The service uses a capsule enhanced with artificial intelligence and modern communication technology to conduct medical examinations in the workplace, completing each one within six minutes.

A report from the ministry’s General Administration of Medical Services said the capsule enabled 26 physiological measurements, the most important of which were height and weight, body and muscle mass, blood pressure, temperature, oxygen levels, energy requirements, heart rate, and heart rate variability.

Each person’s health status data is analyzed by the built-in AI system, followed by a remote medical consultation with a doctor. Any necessary medications are then prescribed via the Wasfaty system.

The service reduces the need for hospital or health care center visits and provides a safe, private environment for conducting workplace health examinations and medical consultations.

Personnel currently covered by the service are from the Ministry of Interior and the Presidency of State Security.

Saudi Arabia’s Mashaer Train transports more than 2.2m Hajj pilgrims 

Updated 19 June 2024

Saudi Arabia’s Mashaer Train transports more than 2.2m Hajj pilgrims 

RIYADH: Saudi Railways on Wednesday hailed the success of the Mashaer Train operation at this year’s Hajj season, saying the metro service had transported more than 2.2 million passengers between the nine stations in Arafat, Muzdalifah and Mina, operating 2,206 trips.

More than 29,000 worshippers were transported on the first day of the pilgrimage, while more than 292,000 pilgrims were carried from Mina to Arafat, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The Mashaer Train then transported over 305,000 people during the pilgrimage from Arafat to Muzdalifah, and more than 383,000 worshippers from Muzdalifah to Mina.

During the days of Tashreeq, the train carried more than 1.2 million pilgrims from stations Mina 1, Mina 2, and Muzdalifah 3 to Mina 3 station (Jamarat), which offered easy access to the Jamarat Bridge.

Bashar Al-Malik, CEO of SAR, said that the success of the operating plan was built on unlimited support for the railway sector from the Saudi leadership.

Riyadh targets Expo 2030 ‘by the world, for the world’

Updated 20 June 2024

Riyadh targets Expo 2030 ‘by the world, for the world’

  • Saudi organizers deliver their first progress report to event bureau chiefs in Paris

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is on target to deliver an Expo 2030 “by the world, for the world,” organizers have told event chiefs in Paris in their first progress report since Riyadh was chosen as host city.

Abdulaziz Alghannam, director general of the Riyadh Expo 2030 office at the Royal Commission for Riyadh City, led the Saudi delegation at the general assembly of the Bureau International des Expositions in the French capital.

Efforts were fully underway for Expo registration and preparation for creating the legal framework to enable international participation in the event, he told the bureau.

Riyadh was chosen to host the event at the bureau’s last general assembly in November 2023. The expo will take place  from Oct. 1, 2030 to March 31, 2031, when the Saudi capital will host 197 countries and 29 international organizations.

The theme – “The Era of Change: Together for a Foresighted Tomorrow” – encapsulates Saudi Arabia’s commitment to using the Expo to accelerate progress toward the planned sustainable development goals. The event will focus on harnessing science and innovation for a better future.

Preparations are underway at the highest levels, including infrastructure development, legislative and financial measures, the master plan for the Expo site, and legacy plans.