Arabian Sand Desert Vegetation

These comprise the great sand deserts of the Arabian Peninsula including Rub’ al Khali, the Great Nafud, and the crescent-shaped Dahna desert. The Rub’al Khali is one of the driest regions of Arabia with an annual rainfall of just 35 mm or so. It is characterized by massive sand dunes or sand mountains, which are thought to be a relict of early more energetic wind regimes but are now mostly stable. As a result of the extreme dryness there are no annual species here and large parts of the area are dominated by the endemic shrub Calligonum crinatum subsp. arabicum (Polygonaceae), a shrubland known locally as abal. In central and northeastern parts the endemic shrub Cornulaca arabica (Chenopodiaceae) becomes more conspicuous. This saltbush shrubland is known locally as hadh and covers thousands of square kilometers. Other species characteristic of this desert includes Cyperus conglomeratus, Dipterygium glaucum and the two endemic species Limeum arabicum (Molluginaceae) and Tribulus arabicus (Zygophyllaceae). The dominant shrubs of the Dahna and Great Hafud are Artemisia monosperma and Calligonum comosum (abal-adhir shrubland). These are usually widely spaced and often intermixed with tussocks of perennial grasses such as Centropodia forsskolii and Stipagrostis drarii, and broadly equates to the so-called Central Arabian Red Sand Vegetation. Another important shrub is Haloxylon persicum, and in contrast to the Rud’ al Khali, there is a relatively high proportion of annual species. These tend to be a feature of springtime flushes following favourable rain. Typical species include Anthemis deserti, Arnebia decumbens, Astragalus hauarensis, Cutandia memphitica, Emex spinosa, Eremobium aegyptiacum, Hippocretis bicontorta, Ifloga spicata, Launaea capitata, Lotononia platycarpa, Neurada procumbens, Plantago boissieri, Rumex pictus, Silene villosa and the endemic Paronychia arabica (Caryophyllaceae) and Schimpera arabica (Brassicaceae). On the sand-drifts in Wadi Anqabya south of the Cairo-Suez road a different psammophytic community can be found. Here the perennials Aristida brachypoda and Haloxylon salicornicum dominate together with varying amounts of Lasiurus hirsutes. Other species include Anthemus deserti, Centaurea aegyptiaca, Cotula cinerea, Diplotaxis harra, Fagonia glutinosa, Farsetia aegyptia, Gypsophila rokeyeka, Linaria haelava, Matthiola livida, Mesembryanthemum forskahler, Pancratium sickenbergeri, Paranychia lenticulata, Polycarpon arabicum and Silene villosa. Also found here is the remarkable annual, yellow-flowered bellflower Campanula suphurea.

Arabian Cymbopogon parkeri Desert Grassland

In northern parts of Qatar particularly in depressions (robat) the aromatic, tussock grass Cymbopogon parkeri is the dominant plant. In the dry season peripheral parts of tussocks die-off possibly to reduce the overall area for transpiration during this period. After the onset of the rainy season the grass become reinvigorated with new tillers and leaves. Often interspersed between the tussocks are various empemerals such as Aizoon canariense, Anastatica hierochuntica, Ifloga spicata, Plantago amplexicaule, Schismus barbatus, Stipa capensis, Trigonella stellata and Zygophyllum simplex. Trees in these grasslands are few and far between but may include scattered individuals of Acacia tortilis, Lycium shawii or Ziziphus nummularia.

Arabian Panicum turgidum Desert Grassland

Vegetation dominated by Panicum turgidum can be found, for example, in southern parts of the Qatar peninsula where it occurs either on robat or in the sandy troughs of the Dukhan-Umm Bab ridge. In the former, scattered trees of Acacia tortilis are also present together with perennials like Aera javonica, Chrysopogon aucheri, Eremopogon foveolatus, Hammada elegans, Lasiurus hirsutus, Lycium shawii, Neurada procumbens, Polycarpaea repens, Rhanterium epapposum and Stipagrostis plumosa. On the Dukhan-Umm Bab ridge trees are absent but common associates include Cornulaca monacantha, Cyperus conglomeratus, Fagonia ovalifolia, Maltkiopsis ciliata, Monsonia heliotropioides, Polycarpaea repens and Stipogrostis plumosa. Unfortunately, in certain areas Panicum turgidum tends to be overgrazed and in such areas the less palatable Pennisetum divisum has become a common feature.


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