The first detailed survey of the plants of the Wadi Wurayah National Park, WWNP, in the Emirate of Fujairah has shown that the area is home to over 25% of all plant species known in the United Arab Emirates and adjacent parts of Northern Oman.
Details of the survey, carried out by researcher Gary Feulner, are reported in the latest issue of the academic journal Tribulus, published by the Abu Dhabi-based Emirates Natural History Group.
Covering an area of 221 square kilometres of the Hajar Mountains, inland from the coastal town of Bidiyah, the Wadi Wurayah National Park was formally created in 2009 by H.H. Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Fujairah. The only permanent waterfall in the UAE is located within the Park and has traditionally been a popular tourist spot, but the rest of the park has been largely free from human impact.
The park has more permanent surface water – such as streams and small pools – than any other part of the UAE's mountains.
Initial studies of the plants to be found in the area were carried out in the 1980s. At that time, the area was described in the first book on the plants of the UAE as being "wild and almost inaccessible."
"Wadi Wurayah is justifiably acclaimed for its scenic beauty and its exceptional biodiversity," Feulner says. "By virtue of its large size and its relative abundance of permanent (surface) water, it is home to a high proportion of the plant and animal species that can be found in the Hajar Mountains of the UAE."
Feulner, whose own investigations of the area began in the late 1980s, carried out his detailed baseline study in 2013 and 2014. As a result of his work and of earlier records, Feulner has identified a total of 202 native plant species within the area of the park. These include eight species which are regional endemics, meaning that they are only known from the UAE and adjacent areas of Oman. Two of the species have not been recorded anywhere else in the United Arab Emirates. In all, just over 800 plant species have so far been identified in the UAE.
The survey was carried out for the Emirates Wildlife Society – Worldwide Fund for Nature, EWS-WWF, in collaboration with Fujairah Municipality, the managers of the park, and with the support of HSBC.