USAID: United State Agency for the International Development
WB: World Bank
WWF: World Wildlife Fund
Fourth National Report (CBD)
1. Overall status and trends in biodiversity and major threats:
The area of Jordan is about 89,000 (km2), of which over 80% are semi-arid and arid areas. Due to its strategic location among three continents; Asia, Africa and Europe, Jordan treasure astonishing biological diversity, including terrestrial, wetland and marine ecosystems. The country has diverse topography, considerable climatic variations, and several habitat types. The climate in Jordan is mostly semi-arid to arid desert with an average precipitation ranging from less than 70 mm in the eastern and southern desert areas arising to 350 mm in the middle, and up to 600 mm per annum in the north-west part of the country. The topography of the country is mostly desert plateau with highland and Jordan Valley in the west. The lowest point in Jordan (and on earth) is 416 meters below sea level at the Dead Sea. The highest point is 1,854 meters above sea level at Jabal Um Dami Mount (Rum Area).
Environmental (biological) and cultural resources are highly diverse, however, Jordan has few natural resources, but water; oil and gas are extremely scarce. For several years now, renewable groundwater resources have been extracted at an unsustainable rate in order to meet the increasing demand. Consequently, surface and groundwater quality in some areas is deteriorating. Only 4% of land is arable and less than 1% is forest and woodland.
Wild plants constitute a very important component of Jordan’s biological diversity. Conservation of this natural heritage is listed high on the priorities of the government. The total number of plant species recorded in Jordan exceeds 2500 species of which 100 are endemic. The endemic species include Iris petrana, Cousinia dayi, Plantago maris-mortui, Crucianella transjordanica, Centaurea procurrens, Scrophularia nabataerum, Tamarix tetragyn, and T. palaestina. A preliminary survey by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) in the Mujib Nature Reserve identified the presence of rare species, including Adiantum capillus-veneris, Sternbergia clusiana, Pistacia atlantica, Caralluma aaronis, Pergularia tomentosa, Equisetum ramosissimum, Crocus moabiticus, Micromeria sinaica (endemic; also on IUCN list), Teucrium leucocladum, Ajuga chamaepytis, A. iva, Lavandula pubescens, and Withania somnifera (new to the area). Endemic species in the Mujib Nature Reserve include Withania obtusifolia, Micromeria sinaica, and Crocus moabiticus. Rare or very rare species of the country are 375 (including species of the genus Orchis, Romulea, Biarum and Globularia), 150 are endangered (including species of the genus Juniperus and Cupressus) and currently about 75 species are considered extinct. These species represent 152 families and about 700 genera. A few studies related to the identification of endemic, rare and endangered flora have been carried out in Jordan. Flowering plants constitute the most dominant group of species and are particularly visible in the spring. Several species have ornamental or medicinal value.
The importance of these Medicinal Plants as a source of preventive and/or curative health value (for both people and livestock) have been recognized by local people since time immemorial. A total of 485 species of medicinal plants, which belong to 330 genera and 99 families, are reported from Jordan (Oran and Al-Eisawi, 1994). Those identified medicinal plants are herbs, shrubs and trees.
Plant flagship species would include Iris petrana, Jordan’s floral emblem, Iris negranesis, Moringa peregrina, Salvadora persicum, Cyclamen persicum, Aloe vera, Pinus halepensis, Juniperus phoenicia, Acacia arabica, Pistacia palestina and others.
According to IUCN Red List of 2006, out of 1,562,663 described species in the world, a total of 40,168 species have been evaluated. Out of these species evaluated, 16,118 were found to be threatened. There is a clear need for more research on most of the species that exist in order to know their status. There are only very taxonomic groups that have been comprehensively evaluated and these are birds, amphibians, mammals and only two groups of plants, namely conifers and cycads.
According to the IUCN Red List of 2006, Jordan has 47 globally threatened species. Of the 78 species and sub-species of mammals in Jordan, comprising 24 genera and 7 orders, 12 species are considered as globally threatened. These include the Arabian Oryx Oryx leucoryx, and Nubian Ibex Capra ibex nubiana. The story of the Arabian Oryx is very well-known where the species has become extinct on the national level due to excessive hunting. The same was going to happen with the Nubian Ibex, but it was brought back from the brink through enforcement and captive breeding programs in Shoumari, Mujib and Dana nature reserves. Other globally threatened mammal species that are recorded in Jordan include all three gazelle species that exist in Jordan, although one of them, Gazella gazelle, is lately thought to be nationally extinct. These species are Dorcas Gazelle Gazella dorcas, Mountain Gazelle Gazella gazellaand Goitered Gazelle Gazella subgutturosa. Many wild species in Jordan are considered globally threatened and a total of 49 different species and subspecies are listed in the IUCN 2000 Red Data List.
425 species of birds, which are predominantly migratory in Jordan, 15 species are globally threatened. The most well-known bird in Jordan and the region is Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulate, this species is categorized as vulnerable and it is still facing a continuous threat from hunting in Jordan and other neighbouring countries. Another globally threatened species that has been declining rapidly in our region and is recorded in Jordan is Saker Falcon Falco cherrug, which has been caught for falconry especially for hunting Houbara Bustards. Other bird species include Syrian Serinus syriacus (VU) which has its largest breeding colony in the world, in Dana Nature Reserve.
Jordan has 97 species of reptiles, 5 species of amphibian pertaining to 4 groups: Bufonidae, Hylidae, Ronidae and Pelobatidae, and 20 species of freshwater fish.
The Gulf of Aqaba is a host to more than 450 species of fish, 150 species of hard coral, 120 species of soft coral in addition to sponges, snails, crabs and sea turtles. 20% of mollusks and echinodermata as well as several species of algae occurring in the Gulf may be endemic. Of between 300-350 species of fish, which have been recorded in Aqaba, 7 are recognized as endemic.
During the last 120 years, many native Jordanian species have been lost and became nationally extinct, including some species that were once widespread and common. Some species are now considered to be on the verge of national extinction. This is the result of many threats including destruction of natural habitats and ecosystems, introduction of invasive species, modernization of transportation and improved hunting techniques. About 9 macro-mammals and at least 5 plants are extinct from the wild (Jordan Country Study On Biological Diversity, 1998). Further studies are likely to reveal more extinct organisms, especially invertebrates and plants.
The decline in Jordan’s wildlife is mainly affecting large mammal populations as well as other taxonomic groups. About 46 mammal, 11 bird, 4 reptile, 6 freshwater fish, 2 marine invertebrate and 4 marine vertebrate species are nationally threatened in Jordan. Plant diversity in Jordan is facing a dramatic decline as a result of habitat loss and degradation. Such destruction has led to the isolation of many species, which, in turn has led to a loss of their genetic diversity, and to a high risk of extinction. Currently, between 200 and 250 plant species are nationally rare and 100 to 150 species are nationally threatened.
Habitat degradation and species loss in the Rift Valley is serious and accelerating, largely as a result of increasing development pressure, inappropriate agricultural practices and population growth. Among the many rare and endangered animals and plants recorded in the Valley to date are the sand cat, leopard, Nubian ibex, Syrian wolf, griffon vulture, imperial eagle, lesser kestrel, Dead Sea sparrow, Epipactis veratifolia, Maerua crassifolia and several endemic fish, birds and insects. A dramatic drop in the number of migrating birds along the corridor has also been noted, and especially of large raptors, storks and cranes (Birdlife International).
The main threats to species at risk are the loss and degradation of habitats, over-exploitation of plant and animal species, extensive agricultural and unplanned developmental activities, pollution, invasion of introduced species, overgrazing, water extraction, illegal hunting and trading of species and intensive use of agrochemicals.
However the trend in biological diversity in certain areas is declining due to several stress factors, higher attention is being given day after day by all involved national parties; thereto say; the trend in conserving biodiversity is thriving.
2. Key actions taken in support of the Convention’s three objectives and to achieve the 2010 target and goals and objectives of the Strategic Plan of the Convention:
JORDAN ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1993. This is the widest nature conservation convention and covers all classic nature conservation issues as well as related environmental protection, protection of genetic resources and ecosystems. Fulfillment of this convention in fact covers all activities of a state in protection of life and livable environment. The three main goals of the convention are 1) protection of biodiversity, 2) sustainable use of its components and, 3) fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.
The National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan constitutes a major contribution to the country's development plan. This strategy was released in the year 2003. the strategy envisage that land, water, pasture, terrestrial and marine ecosystems as well as wildlife and aquatic resources in particular are central to agriculture, fisheries and tourism development. Also, it envisages habitat protection, natural resource conservation and sustainable use options offer significant opportunities for demonstrating that conservation of biodiversity represents a vital investment in future sustainability of Jordan's economic and social development.
Jordan has good professional experts in nature conservation and biodiversity, well established nature conservation science producing the basic knowledge useful for practical nature conservation. Application of this knowledge is sometimes a separate question. Endangered resources have been accounted in (National Strategy and Action Plan on conservation of biodiversity 2003); they are partly studied, monitored and restored in certain cases. The situation with the sustainable use of the components of biodiversity is more complicated. Nature conservation outside the conservation areas is not functioning in suitable way; actual use of resources is not subject to the principles of sustainability of biodiversity. Environmental awareness and nature education of the society, including the Parliament, Government, and state officials have been increased. The fundamental role of biodiversity protection as the basis for all human activities is growing among students, farmers, women and rural communities.
Jordan has given high priority to conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity components, in view of its position in a region of uncertain political condition, the climatic conditions, and the country’s rapid development and urbanization that have led to habitat fragmentation and ecosystem degradation. This situation is also manifested in financial constraints, which have impeded adequate progress in implementing the Convention on Biological Diversity. As a result, the programs of work for implementing different articles of the Convention on Biological Diversity have not yet been sufficiently integrated into national policy and to the developmental action plans, and national financial allocations for implementation have been inadequate.
The IUCN/WWF mission which started in 1974, aimed to promote Wildlife conservation in the country, and with the help of The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, their research and survey came up with a result to suggest to have 4% of Jordan's total area as Protected Areas that represent Jordan's geological, ecological and hydro biological characteristics.
In 1977, IUCN-WWF defined 12 different areas of conservation importance, which encompasses the majority of Jordan’s biological diversity. These 12 areas make up the network of Jordan’s protected areas. In 1998, RSCN has carried a review of the protected areas network and has further proposed six more protected areas. So, the total number of areas that should become part of the protected areas network is eighteen. Up to date, seven protected areas (reserves) have been established.
In relation to the first goal of CBD what is happening in Jordan is very progressive, the protected areas reached to 5.64% of the terrestrial land and marine. Protection is greatly needed to maintain the country’s rich biodiversity, in the face of development pressures acting upon a fragile arid environment. Conserving biodiversity and sustainable use of biological resources are fundamental to achieving sustainable development as they are an echo to the teachings and beliefs of Islam on the obligation for man to maintain balanced relations with the other elements of creation.
Special attention was directed to other zones outside protected areas. These zones have significant conservation importance due to their great diversity of species and habitats. They consist of important bird areas, important wetland areas, marginal areas at national borders (protected by the army) and wildlife corridors. In 1995, Bird life International in cooperation with RSCN defined and globally declared 27 areas in Jordan as important bird areas covering a total area of 7600 km2 about8.5 % of the total area of Jordan. Seven of these sites are already protected areas and the other ten are proposed, on the other hand 13 important wetland areas were identified to help protection of nationally and internationally important water birds and other threatened birds.
In 1980, Jordan was among the original 30 countries to declare support for the World Conservation Strategy. Another milestone in this effort is the National Environment Strategy (NES), a resource book of information and guidelines for action, compiled by a team of 180 Jordanian specialists with the support of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). In October 1995, the first Jordanian Environmental Law was passed to achieve the principle objectives mentioned in NES, and the National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP) was prepared emphasizing the need for a national biodiversity inventory. In September 1996, the national Agenda-21 project was launched to lay the ground for sustainable resource development and environmentally sound management in the country and adopted in the year 2000. The country study on biodiversity in Jordan was completed in 1998 by the National Unit for Biodiversity (NUB) under the guidance of the GCEP, with the financial support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the United Nation Environment Program (UNEP). In 2003, the “Temporary Jordanian Environmental Protection Law” was adopted and in 2003, and the “Ministry of Environment” was created in the same year.
At the regional and international levels, the Government of Jordan has ratified the following conventions: the Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD) in 1993, the Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in 1996, the Ramsar Convention in 1977, the Cartagena Protocol in the 2000, the Convention of Migratory Species (CMS) in the year 2000, the Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in 2002, the World Heritage Convention and the Regional Convention for the Conservation of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden Environment. The Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was ratified in 1993 and Kyoto Protocol was ratified in 2003. Jordan is also party to IUCN and UNESCO Man and Biosphere Program through a national committee. In (2006), the Government of Jordan released the National Agenda document that describes conservation of biodiversity.
The country has to take steps in the field of raising public awareness, formulating policies and strategies, enforce legislations, improve national, regional and international cooperation, and finally documenting the national biodiversity work both in research and nationally-organized meetings.
Several research programs and baseline surveys have been conducted inside protected areas and to lesser extent outside them. These research activities were mainly promoted by the RSCN to meet its principle objective, which is conserving representative sites, and its wild species through shaping and improving management plans for these sites. Other research activities have taken place by Ministry of Agriculture, academic institutions and voluntary work. One of the major studies that is carried out outside protected is the National Water bird Census, which the RSCN has been implementing, in coordination with Wetlands International, in all major wetlands and water bodies of the country since 2000.