Jordan is situated at the center of unique biota, representing the biodiversity of dry lands. The natural ecosystems in Jordan support human activities in agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry, tourism, traditional and pharmaceutical health products, traditional medicine and many others. These ecosystems are also important for their intrinsic value, and for protection of overall environmental quality.
The Levant states in general, and Jordan in particular, went through changes during the past two centuries from various anthropogenic activities. These changes are threatening the natural ecosystems, which have been destroyed to make way for agricultural, industrial, or housing developments. Species biodiversity have been severely affected, with many facing extinction. Rare and endemic plant and animals are endangered.
Biodiversity in Jordan
Despite its relatively small size, Jordan is highly rich in biodiversity. The country is divided into four different bio-geographical zones – the Mediterranean, Irano -Turanian, saharo-Arabian and Sudania. These zones are key elements in supporting biodiversity, containing three major ecosystems – terrestrial, marine, and wetland.
Biodiversity in Jordan has been seriously threatened in recent years. Natural areas and wildlife has been severely affected due to rapid urban growth resulting from population growth, large-scale migration and rapid industrial expansion has led to depletion of natural ecosystems. Agriculture, animal-grazing, construction and other human activities has led to soil erosion, desertification and fragmentation of the land and reduction or extinction of wildlife. Furthermore, the increasing stress on limited water supplies has led to overexploitation of water resources and a decline in its quality and general decline in biological systems.
The agricultural expansion has led to ecological changes in two ways: decrease in population of some species due to alteration of their natural habitat, and over-exploitation of water resources. For some species, the lack of water has forced the animals to move or die, although for others it has increased their population. Rampant use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers has contaminated soil and water resources while reckless use of heavy agricultural machinery on marginal arid lands has encouraged soil erosion.
Overgrazing is widely recognized as harmful to ecosystems as it may lead to desertification, which increases atmospheric dust; such dust creates a health problem for both humans and wildlife. Furthermore, overgrazing is harmful for soil microorganisms on which the health of the entire ecosystem depends upon. Desertification and deforestation causes the land to deteriorate rapidly. Although Jordan is committed to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), illegal hunting and trapping is still common which is threatening a host of wildlife species. Traffic and vehicular movement is increasing rapidly in Jordan which is also reading to soil erosion and death of animals.
Roadmap for Biodiversity Conservation
Jordan is working toward more profound strategic policies and actions to meet the requirements of the Convention on Biological Diversity. At the national level, the goal is to raise public awareness about nature as related to the conservation of biodiversity, and to direct national concern in different sectors about the conservation and management of Jordan’s natural habitat in a sustainable way. Decision makers in Jordan should be more aware of the threats facing biological diversity and the degree of its deterioration.
An important development is a multidisciplinary approach that uses geographic information system (GIS) analysis. The plan should involve many stakeholders, including the government, specialized nongovernmental organizations, local communities, and representatives research initiations and universities. As a response to the urgent need for conservation of biodiversity in Jordan, I suggest the following solutions:
- Rehabilitation of damaged ecosystems in order to promote biodiversity and solving causes of poverty and unemployment – Poverty is both a cause and a consequence of biodiversity degradation: poor people are forced to put urgent needs before the long-term quality of the biodiversity.
- Designing water supply models and monitoring water quantity and quality for plant and animal biodiversity. To reduce pressure from the growing urban demand, a long-term water solution will require fundamental changes in national water policy and adoption of a large-scale management by the Jordanian government.
- Coordinating implementation of the plan between the local communities, government agencies and the private sector. It is important to involve local communities in decision making regarding hunting, water use and grazing.
- Implementation of comprehensive plan, guidelines and national and international policies for sustainable development of arid areas, preservation of biodiversity, and adoption of strategies to prevent harmful practices such as overgrazing or over extraction of water.
- Establishment of separated areas for biodiversity conservation, off-limits to grazing and other activities, and the monitoring of biodiversity in those areas.
- Addressing the problems faced by farmers, such as crop selection. There is currently a lack of information on alternative crops that are tolerant to water stress and water-saving irrigation techniques. Livestock owners need services such as grazing reserves and infrastructure for marketing milk and other products.
- Land use plans are essential for conservation of biodiversity of Jordan, there is an urgent need to encourage shifting the rural pressure to none fertile land, also new trends should be adopted to minimize reduction in forested land and reforest cleared areas.
- Establishment of more natural reserves to give Jordanians beautiful places to visit and preserve Jordan’s beauty for future generations. A network of protected areas for ecosystems species and genetic resources preservation must also be established.
- Introduction of sustainable systems for farming, include disease control and crops that help to regenerate soils. Appropriate support and encouragement to farmers to adopt new policies and new practices, such as water-saving irrigation techniques and plantings of sustainable crops such as date palms or honey production.
Jordan is committed to study its biodiversity to conserve its natural resources and ensure the sustainable use of its resources. It is also hoped that Jordan Biodiversity study will be the basis for cross-cultural cooperation and exchange, resulting in scientific integration between Jordan and the rest of the World. The result of applying there principle across several areas will be a visible recovery and improvement of Jordan’s ecosystem. Additionally, new jobs will be created as part of the conservation efforts.
A biological survey is necessary to monitor changes in the Jordanian ecosystems. National guidance is required, as well as national and international funding for these activities. Appropriate development organizations should encourage research in ethno-biology to identify plant and animal species used by local people, which will prevent species from being irretrievably lost.
As human induced environmental change continues, society is facing an increasing array of pressing environmental challenges. Answers to these complex challenges must be informed by coordinated, long-term interdisciplinary research. The LTER sites (Long term ecological research sites) are poised to address a set of new initiatives to be pursued in response to these environmental challenges.
Considering that one third of the land mass surface of the earth is classified as arid land, knowledge of the composition of their bio-communities and of how these communities are affected by landscape sustainability measures will find wider application in landscape sustainability programs and contribute to future global policies. Government and specialized environmental NGO involvement is essential for the success of these measures.