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UNESCO’s World Heritage List Adds Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve Located in Saudi Arabia's on Top

UNESCO’s World Heritage List has been released and Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve, a natural habitat for wildlife in Saudi Arabia, has been placed on the top.

Aysha Anam
Group of Arabian Oryx with sand dune background. (Photo Courtesy: unesco.org)
Group of Arabian Oryx with sand dune background. (Photo Courtesy: unesco.org)

UNESCO’s World Heritage List has been released, placing Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve, a natural habitat for wildlife in Saudi Arabia, on the top.

Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve

"The property encompasses the western part of the greatest expanse of windblown sand on Earth, known as Ar Rub' al-KhaIi, and conserves one of the Earth’s most spectacular desert landscapes. The varied topography of the property creates a wide range of wildlife habitats and the site is globally notable due to the reintroduction of iconic desert animals, including the Arabian Oryx (Oryx leucoryx) and Arabian Sand Gazelle (Gazella marica), into their natural habitats after decades of extinction in the wild," said UNESCO. 

'Uruq Bani Ma'arid has been designated an Important Plant Area because of the richness of its plant life as compared to other parts of the Empty Quarter, and the presence of many plant species endemic to the Arabian Peninsula. The limestone escarpment has little vegetation but the wadis crease the sides of the escarpment and support a variety of shrubby growth including Acacias, grasses and perennial legumes. Some scanty vegetation grows on the dunes, particularly Calligonum crinitum ssp. arabicum together with sedges and perennial grasses. In the corridors between the dunes grow dwarf Haloxylon persicum, Moringa peregrina and Commiphora myrrha. Few annual plants grow here, but after rain has fallen there is growth of new shoots on the perennial plants. 106 species of plant have been recorded in the reserve.

The mobile dunes also provide an excellent and well-oxygenated habitat for sand-diving invertebrates and reptiles. The site has been under protected status. Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve is located on the western edge of the Rub' al Khali (Empty Quarter), the largest sandy desert in the world. This area has been divided into three parts, namely - a core nature reserve; a zone where controlled grazing is permitted; and a hunting zone.

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