Native vegetation is irreplaceable, as it sustains life on earth. Besides, reflecting the cultural heritage of a nation, it provides sustainable benefits to the society. Native vegetation provides low-cost feeds for livestock grazing, a source of valuable gene pool for research and development, a source of medicine for meeting primary health needs in several countries, and a source of organic substance to the soil. Unfortunately, overexploitation of natural resources, including native vegetation has been, and is still, very destructive and the planet Earth will not be able to sustain the present rate of destruction. Omar et al., (2007) classified Kuwait’s terrestrial ecosystem into six groups, namely, coastal plain and lowland ecosystem, desert plain and lowland ecosystem, alluvial fan ecosystem; escarpment; ridge and hilly ecosystem; wadi and depression ecosystem; and burchan sand dune ecosystem. Each of these ecosystems has a dominant species and several associated species. Kuwait is the home of nearly 374 plants species, which includes 256 annuals, and 83 herbaceous perennials. Shrubs and under shrubs are fewer in number (34 species), whereas only one tree is native to Kuwait. Kuwait’s native vegetation is of enormous scientific value, because it represents a transition between semi-desert and desert vegetation. Besides, several of them serve as valuable indicators of human induced changes on vegetation pattern; and contain valuable genes for heat, drought, and salt-tolerance research.

While overgrazing is one of the major factors that has contributed to the loss of vegetation in Kuwait in the past. Other factors have also adversely affected the vegetation’s natural recovery from negative impacts. These factors include the nature of substrate, soil compaction, unpredictable rainfall pattern, and lack of seeds in the soil. The Iraqi occupation of Kuwait and subsequent military activities worsened the situation further, resulting in a significant loss of native vegetation cover, disruption of natural plant succession process, widespread soil compaction, contamination of surface and subsurface soils with chemical pollutants, and changes in physical and chemical soil properties. Natural recovery of native vegetation under harsh climatic conditions is extremely slow, requiring 30 – 40 years even under moderate soil moisture’s availability, and microclimate.  Therefore, evident ongoing degradation trend in terrestrial ecosystems, and restoring native vegetation in degraded areas, are major challenges faced by Kuwait. Large-scale revegetation programs, and close monitoring of natural processes would be crucial to address this challenge.

KISR has been conducting studies over the past several years to understand the ecology and dynamics of native plant communities in their native habitats. KISR’s researchers have also been evaluating various revegetation techniques and strategies for restoring native plant species in degraded ecosystems. The major scope of KISR’s current native plant research is on proper documentation, and conservation of terrestrial ecosystems. This scope of research also involves systematic molecular and genetic characterization, while at the same time, continuously monitoring the functioning of damaged terrestrial ecosystems. Due to the positive outcome of these research efforts, significant opportunities are available for the establishment of large-scale revegetation program in the country. In addition, KISR is exerting efforts to develop efficient techniques and strategies for ecological management, and the restoration of degraded ecosystems, and establishing vibrant partnerships with international organizations specialized in ecosystem restoration.

Omar, S. A. S., Y. Al Mutawa and S. Zaman. 2007. Vegetation of Kuwait. Kuwait: Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research, pp 159.

Registration Form