Oman to lose hundreds of plants due to climate change

Oman Sunday 08/May/2016 11:16 AM
By: Times News Service
Oman to lose hundreds of plants due to climate change
Muscat: If no action is taken, Oman will lose 98 per cent of some of its plant species within three decades as the climate change continues to warm planet Earth, experts say.
Just 35 years from now, global warming is feared to significantly reduce the number of plants, according to Dr Nadya Al Saadi, executive director at the Oman Animal and Plant Genetic Resources Centre (OAPGRC).
“If we did not act to curb the negative effects of climate change, we will end up losing hundreds of plants in the Sultanate, including medicinal plants and crops’ wild relatives,” she said, adding that Oman might be left with only two per cent of the current number of some species.
Out of 1,400 species of plants in Oman, around 500 are of value and can be utilised for medical purposes.
Very beneficial
“Almost one-third of our plants can be very beneficial in the medical sector,” said Dr Ali Hussein Al Lawati, plant genetic resources expert at OAPGRC, adding that medically important plants can be used to make traditional herbal medicines, cosmetics, shampoos and other health and pharmaceutical products.
He added that without conservation, urbanisation and other human activities which harm the environment can cause severe damage to Oman’s vegetation.
Based on models, many plants are expected to flourish and cover more areas of Oman in the next five years as early stages of climate change can be favourable to them. By 2050, most of them will be gone.
While plants in Oman are struggling to keep up with the radical change in weather temperature, new diseases and insects threaten these. The OAPGRC, in coordination with other stake holders, is planning to establish a gene bank to deposit living samples of local plants, to conduct research on them and preserve the future of agriculture in Oman.
There are currently 29 outdoor gene banks in the Sultanate, according to Dr Hameed Al Ghafaji, expert of genetic resources, policies and data analysis at OAPGRC.
However, plans are afoot to start a gene bank centre to store various types of plants for short, mid and long term storage.
This comes as part of socioeconomic plant species’ conservation strategy for Oman, managed by OAPGRC in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Oman Natural History Museum, Oman Botanical Garden, Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Royal Court Affairs and Sultan Qaboos University.
Instead of depending on oil
“We need to gather all the information about our plants and also need to utilise alternative and sustainable resources instead of depending on oil,” Al Lawati stressed.
Dr Nadya Al Saadi said Oman’s endangered plants do not only have health value, but also have economic value.
“Oman’s local breeds of plants are immune to hot climate and as the weather temperature around the globe is increasing, the whole world looks at our plants as an investment,” she added.
It is worth mentioning that Oman’s Ministry of Agriculture has recently produced thyme successfully in local farms.
The OAPGRC was established by the Research Council (TRC) in 2012 in response to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said’s order to review Oman’s capacity to protect its globally significant genetic resources.