Multinational team to study species distribution in Oman’s central desert

By Conrad Prabhu — MUSCAT: Jan 11 – A team of Omani and international wildlife conservation scientists is preparing to embark on a groundbreaking, three-week-long study of the central desert of the Sultanate aimed at uncovering the boundary between the tropical and extra-topical division of Arabia – an issue that is key to understanding the bio-geography of the central and southern regions of the Sultanate.
The Central Desert Botanic Expedition Oman 2017 has been put together by Oman Botanic Garden (OBG), a unique showcase of the Sultanate’s rich and diverse flora currently under development at Al Khoudh.
Also supporting the venture is The Anglo-Omani Society, a charitable organisation working with the objective of preserving the longstanding friendship between Britain and Oman.
“This project brings together an international team with common interests in environmental conservation and cross-cultural partnership.  Under the direction of OBG botanists, the team will trek across a barren landscape for three weeks; from the coast, through sandy plains and mountain ridges collecting data and specimen at intervals on that route,” a backgrounder on the expedition explained.
In studying the bio-geography of the central desert, the 23-member team, which includes seven Omani botanists, will focus on the distribution of seven endemic plant species in the area.
The resulting “vegetation mosaic” will potentially help delineate the bio-geographical boundaries, according to OBG.
Another key objective of the study is to measure a number of environmental variables, such as the pH value of the soil, soil texture and electrical conductivity (EC), and to determine their effects on the distribution of the seven species in question.
Besides fostering collaboration between the Omani and international members of the team, the expedition also aims to help train the participants in some field techniques, such as the collection of plant materials.