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New Year cheer for plant lovers: 6 new flora species discovered

posted on 01/01/2014: 3264 views

The New Year bears good news for plant lovers in the UAE — six new species of flora have recently been discovered here.

It is a well known fact that of all the emirates, Sharjah is richer in ecological diversity as it has a great variety of plants and animals. But many of the natural habitats in this region are facing threats both naturally and anthropologically. Therefore, conservation of the natural habitats has become a priority for Sharjah.

The establishment of the Sharjah Seed Bank and Herbarium (SSBH) is a crucial step towards the conservation of natural ecosystems of the entire region. The laboratory equipment for the SSBH, purchased with technical directions from the Royal Botanical Garden, UK, have been set up temporarily at the University of Sharjah.

The SSBH, which is a part of the Sharjah Research Academy (SRA), has secured funds for five different research projects from the Government of Sharjah, National Research Foundation (Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research in the UAE), Emirates Foundation and the Qatar Foundation. The combined fund for these projects is Dh5,000,000. All of the projects are concerned with the conservation of habitats and investigation on the feasibility of using native plants for economically beneficial purposes.

Dr Ali El-Keblawy, a senior scientist at the SSBH, reported that since its inception, the SSBH has collected a total of 637 viable seed collections, representing 340 species from Sharjah. The total weight of these collections is more than 40kg and constitute about 47.5 million seeds. Additionally, 925 herbarium specimens representing 379 species have been collected and are currently conserved in the SSBH herbarium. The SSBH has identified endangered species of plants through extensive surveys of the flora of Sharjah.

Dr Mufid Samarai, a senior advisor at the SRA, and the research team are working towards the new facility for SSBH and SRA with full technical and administrative support. SRA is looking to move to the new facility within the first quarter of 2014.

The new facility will house special laboratories for the SSBH — specifically the seed studies lab, the herbarium preparation room, the cold room, the drying room, the preparation room, and the plant reception room. The new facility will also winclude a herbarium for the seeds collected throughout the region.

The new facility also holds special laboratories for the SRA, particularly spectrophotometry and microscopy laboratories, an environmental research (water, air, soil) laboratory, and an analytical research laboratory. – Khaleej



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