Plant Ecology in the Middle East

Plant Ecology in the Middle East

The Middle East is one of several ‘cradles of civilization’ where people early on tamed plants and animals, domesticating a few and then living successfully off them and with them ever since. Middle Eastern plant ecology today includes the plants of primordial Gondwana and ancient Arabia felix; of Iranian ‘Hyrcania’ and the land south of the Caspian Sea; and fabled plants of the Torah, Bible and Koran. The region is generally dry and getting drier, yet it’s also home to spectacular cloud forests of southern Arabia. The region has been badly neglected in terms of its overall natural history and much of this remains relatively unknown. The plant ecology is just getting under way and a book seems timely. Major dryland families and regional plant communities are described. The high frequency of facilitative interactions, where certain ‘host’ species help others is noted. The book includes a ‘plant’s-eye-view’ of domestication and journeys through some 24 countries, highlighting five regional biodiversity ‘hotspots’ where the challenges of desertification, habitat loss, and other threats to plant biodiversity are acute. Populations of iconic long-lived tree species like the Dragon’s-blood tree, the Bankoualé Palm, and beautiful Mimusops trees are all mostly made up of elderly individuals. The book explores effects of long-term climate change and the isolation of climate relicts upon the ‘regeneration niche’ –i.e., upon the youngsters and adolescents of such species. Other chapters explore ‘deep-time’ effects, salt and halophytes, succulence and sclerophylly, specialized photosynthesis, opportunism and ‘bet-hedging’ strategies for flowering and dispersal.

Courtesy - Ahmed K Hegazy

University of Cairo 

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