Desert and Fog
Imagine standing on Oman's Jiddat al Harasis stony plateau on a day of dense fog. You can see almost nothing--visibility has been reduced to 33 feet (10 m). A silent gloom surrounds you and you hesitate to even take a step. But then you hear the sounds of delicate footsteps near you--not human footsteps, but those of oryx and gazelles walking as they graze. You're reminded then that where you're standing isn't a gloomy spot at all, but a remarkable habitat for many rare Arabian creatures.
This ecoregion covers the coastal strip of most of the western and eastern edges of the Arabian Peninsula. It follows the coast of Oman, including the Jiddat al Harasis plateau and the Dhofar mountains, then reaches into Yemen and up into Saudi Arabia along the Red Sea coast. Dense fog is the definitive characteristic of Oman and Yemen’s east coast, the result of sea breezes causing a rapid drop in temperature and increase in humidity. The fog supplements rainfall to nourish luxuriant vegetation and dense woodlands that give way to desert past the fog's zone of influence. The Tihamah coastal plain receives little or no rainfall but can record high levels of humidity.
A mixture of dense woodlands, grasslands, and succulent shrubland covers most of this ecoregion. These habitats are home to a great many animal species. In the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary you can find Arabian white oryx, Arabian gazelles, Arabian sand gazelles, caracals, honey badgers, Ruppell's sand foxes, red foxes, and Nubian ibex. In Oman's Dhofar region lives Arabia's largest population of Arabian leopards. Arabian wolves, wildcats, and striped hyenas prowl through the ecoregion in the company of smaller mammals, including Blanford's foxes, genets, hedgehogs, rock hyraxes, and Cape hares. White-browed coucals call with 15 descending "hoos" in the early morning. Arabian warblers flit among the trees.
Cause for Concern
The primary threat to the vegetation of this ecoregion, and in turn to the wildlife that depends on it, is overgrazing by goats, camels, and cattle owned by tribal pastoralists. Cutting of wood for fodder, timber, and firewood is also a major problem. Off-road vehicles have damaged soils and vegetation on the Dhofar coastal plain and mountains. And a growing human population is leading to an increase in roads, houses, and other development in this region.
For more information on this ecoregion, go to the World Wildlife Fund Scientific Report.All text by World Wildlife Fund © 2001