(MENAFN Press) The United Arab Emirates in general and Emirates of Sharjah in particular are rich and unique in ecological diversity. The diverse ecosystem encompasses great variety of plants and animals. 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 the Emirates of Sharjah. Establishment of Sharjah Seed Bank and Herbarium (SSBH) is a crucial step forward towards the conservation of the natural ecosystems of this entire region.
Dr. Amr Abdul Hamid, the special advisor to His Highness the ruler of Sharjah for higher education emphasized on the personal interest and support of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Bin Sultan Al Qassimi, Member of the Supreme Council and the Ruler of Sharjah towards the conservation of habitat and ecosystem for this region, which led to the establishment of the SSBH with the technical support from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK through the memorandum of understanding. Sharjah Research Academy (SRA) supports the applied research for conservation of desert environments and natural resources carried out at SSBH.
The team at the SSBH which is a part of SRA, headed by Dr Ali El-Keblawy the leading scientists in the field of desert ecology and Professor at the University of Sharjah, 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 reached to a hefty amount of AED 5,000,000. 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 reported that since the inception, the SSBH has collected a total of 637 viable seed collections representing 340 species from the Emirate of Sharjah. The total weight of these collections is more than 40 kg with a total number of about 47.5 million seeds. In addition, 925 herbarium specimens representing 379 species have been collected and currently are conserved in the SSBH herbarium. The SSBH has identified endangered species of plants through extensive surveys of the flora of the Emirate of Sharjah. One of the huge successes of SSBH in recent time is the discovery of six new species of flora in UAE.
Dr. Mufid Samarai, the senior advisor at SRA and the research team are working towards the new facility for SSBH and SRA with full technical and administrative support. SRA are looking forward to move to the new facility by the first quarter of 2014. The new facility will house the 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 include a herbarium for the seeds collected through out the region. The herbarium is designed to serve for centuries to come. The new facility also holds special laboratories for the SRA particularly the spectrophotometry and microscopy, the environmental research (water, air, soil) laboratory, and analytical research laboratory. The laboratory equipments for the SSBH have been purchased with the technical direction from the Royal Botanical Garden, UK and have been temporarily set up at the University of Sharjah facility.