Arabian Desert


Arabian Desert

The Arabian Desert is a vast desert wilderness stretching from Yemen to the Persian Gulf and Oman to Jordan and Iraq. It occupies most of the Arabian Peninsula with an area of 2,330,000 square kilometers (900,000 mi²)cite book | first=John W. (ed.) | last=Wright | coauthors=Editors and reporters of "The New York Times" | year=2006 | title=The New York Times Almanac | edition=2007 | publisher=Penguin Books | location=New York, New York | id=ISBN 0-14-303820-6 | pages=456] . At its center is the Rub'al-Khali, one of the largest continuous bodies of sand in the world.
Gazelles, oryx, sand cats, and spiny-tailed lizards are just some of the desert-adapted species that survive in this extreme environment, which features everything from red dunes to deadly quicksand. The climate is extremely dry, and temperatures oscillate between extreme heat and seasonal nighttime freezes. It is part of the Deserts and xeric shrublands biome and the Palearctic ecozone.

This ecoregion holds little biodiversity, although a few endemic plants grow here. Many species, such as the striped hyena, jackal and honey badger have become extinct in this area due to hunting, human encroachment and habitat destruction. Other species have been successfully re-introduced, such as the endangered white oryx and the sand gazelle, and are protected at a number of reserves. Overgrazing by livestock, off-road driving, human destruction of habitat are the main threats to this desert ecoregion.

Climate

Type : hyper arid
Detailed description : Most of the Rub'al-Khali is classified as hyper-arid. Rainfall is about 35 mm, (1.38") per annum and relative dry (50% in winter, 15% in summer).
Temperatures range 40-50°C, (104-122°F) in summer, with an average temperature of 5-15°C, (41-59°F) in winter, though it can go below 0°C. Daily extremes are very important.

Saudi Arabia shows lower summer temperatures (around 30°C or 86°F) with cold winter temperature (around 5°C or 41°F, with frequent frost), with average rainfall of less than 80 mm, (3.15").

Geology/Geography

Detailed geological features :
*A corridor of sandy terrain known as the ad-Dahna desert connects the large an-Nafud desert (65,000 km² or 40,389 square mile)) in the north of Saudi Arabia to the Rub' al-Khali in the south-east.
*the Tuwayk escarpment is a region of 800 km, (500 mile) arc of limestone cliffs, plateaux, and canyons.
*Brackish salt flats : the quicksands of Umm al Samim
*The Wahiba sands of Oman : an isolated sand sea bordering the east coast
*The Rub' al-Khali [http://www.alovelyworld.com/webyemen/htmgb/yem027.htm] desert is a sedimentary basin elongated on a southwest to northeast axis across the Arabian shelf. At an altitude of 1000 metres (3300 ft.), the rock landscapes yield the place to the ar-Ruba' Al-Khali, vast wide of sand of the Arabian desert, whose extreme southern point crosses the center of Yemen. The sand overlies gravel or gypsum plains and the dunes reach maximum heights of up to 250m, (825 ft.). The sands are predominantly silicates, composed of 80 to 90% of quartz and the remainder feldspar, whose iron oxide-coated grains color the sands in orange purple, and red.

Ecology and natural resources

Some resources are oil, natural gas, phosphates, and sulfur.

The Rub'al-Khali has very limited floristic diversity. There are only 37 species, 20 recorded in the main body of the sands and 17 around the outer margins. Among these 37 species, only one or two are endemic. Vegetation is very diffuse but fairly evenly distributed, with some interruptions of near sterile dunes.
Some typical plants are
* Calligonum crinitum on dune slopes
* Cornulaca arabica (saltbush)
* Cyperus conglomeratus.Other widespread species are
* Dipterygium glaucum
* Limeum arabicum
* Zygophyllum mandavillei (Mandaville 1986).Very little trees may be found except at the outer margin (typically Acacia ehrenbergiana and Prosopis cineraria).
Other species are a woody perennial Calligonum comosum and annual herbs such as Danthonia forskallii

Political borders

The desert is mostly in Saudi Arabia, extending into the surrounding countries of Egypt (Sinai), Iraq, much of southern and eastern Jordan, Syria and northern Saudi Arabia. The Arabian desert is bordered by 5 countries .Bordering the Persian Gulf, there is an extension into Qatar and, further east, the region covers almost all of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Rub'al-Khali crosses over from Saudi Arabia into western Oman and eastern Yemen.

People, language and cultures

The area is home to several different people, languages and cultures, with Shi'a and Sunni Islam the predominant faiths.

The major ethnicities are:
*Arabs
*Kurds
*Turkmeni
*Assyrians

The significant languages are:
*Arabic
*Kurdish
*Aramaic
*Armenian

Ecological threats

*Overgrazing by camels and goats, with increased herd size, and a more sedentary lifestyle amongst the Bedouin.
*Off-road driving
*Human destruction of habitat and fragmentation in the form of roads
*Agricultural projects
*Oil and gas production
*War and its impacts.

Oil spills

This ecoregion was the victim of a massive economic-environmental challenge: the sabotage of Kuwait oil facilities that caused vast oil spills and the release of toxins into the atmosphere in the 1990s.

In January 1991 during the Gulf War, Iraqi forces released about 1.7 million m³ (11 million barrels) of oil from storage tanks and tankers directly into the Persian Gulf. In February, they also destroyed 1,164 Kuwaiti oil wells. It took nine months to extinguish these oil fires. These oil spills contaminated 1000 km (600 miles) of Persian Gulf coast.

The result of the pollution was the death of thousands of water birds and serious damage to the Persian Gulf's aquatic ecosystem, particularly shrimp, sea turtles, dugongs, whales, dolphins and fish.

The damaged wells also released 10 million m³ (60 million barrels) of oil into the desert and formed lakes (total surface of 49 square kilometers) which contaminated soil and ground water.

Weaponry

Weaponry used by the US during the Gulf war also poses a huge risk to the environmental stability of the area. Tank columns in the desert plains may disrupt the fragile stability that exists. In 1991, the movement of US tanks over the desert damaged the top protective layer of the desert soil. As a result, a sand dune was released and has started slowly moving downhill [ [http://media.www.jhunewsletter.com/media/storage/paper932/news/2003/03/28/Science/Environment.Hit.The.Worst.In.Iraq-2246692.shtml Environment hit the worst in Iraq - Science ] ] . Some people fear that this dune could ultimately reach Kuwait City [ [http://media.www.jhunewsletter.com/media/storage/paper932/news/2003/03/28/Science/Environment.Hit.The.Worst.In.Iraq-2246692.shtml Environment hit the worst in Iraq - Science ] ] . Another concern is related to the use of radioactive depleted uranium munitions by the A-10 "Warthog". Some detractors claim the ammunitions to be a cancer risk and a source of water contamination. In 1991, the U.S. and NATO dropped nearly 300 tons of depleted uranium on Iraqi targets. The splinters resulting from the explosion contaminated the surrounding soil.

Conservation

The conservation status of the desert is critical/endangered, with species including the white oryx and sand gazelle threatened and striped hyaenas, jackals and honey badgers already extinct.

No formal protected areas exist but a number of protected areas are in the planning for Abu Dhabi.

Certain desert species are being looked into for further research. Some of these organisms are becoming extinct because of recent developments regarding specific animals in the desert.

References


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Look at other dictionaries:

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