x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Sharjah scientists discover two new plant species in the UAE

The new species were discovered by a team of scientists at the Sharjah Seed Bank and Herbarium.

Dr Ali El-Keblawy and his team of scientists at the Sharjah Seed Bank and Herbarium have identified the existence of two new species of plants in the UAE. Courtesy Sharjah Seed Bank and Herbarium
Dr Ali El-Keblawy and his team of scientists at the Sharjah Seed Bank and Herbarium have identified the existence of two new species of plants in the UAE. Courtesy Sharjah Seed Bank and Herbarium

UK experts are checking the find against global data

SHARJAH // Botanists have identified the existence of two new species of plants in the UAE.

The new species were discovered by a team of scientists at the Sharjah Seed Bank and Herbarium Research Laboratory. But the details have yet to be released.

They are now coordinating their find with colleagues at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew in London, who are checking the data against their global records of plants.

“These species still await naming and will be new species for the globe,” said Dr Ali El-Keblawy, the team leader and a professor at the University of Sharjah.

In the two years since its founding, scientists at the seed bank have discovered 13 species known to science but thought to be non-indigenous to the UAE.They include flowering grasses and shrubs.

The seed bank, with support from the Sharjah Research Academy, has secured grants worth Dh5 million to work on projects to conserve desert habitats and to research the use of native plants for commercial purposes.

The funding is provided by the Government of Sharjah, the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, the Emirates Foundation and the Qatar Foundation.

Since its inception, the seed bank has collected 637 viable seed collections representing 340 species from Sharjah, according to Dr El-Keblawy.

The collections, which have 47.5 milion seeds, weigh more than 40kg.

In addition, 379 species of preserved plants have been collected and stored.

Dr Ali El-Keblawy’s team has also identified endangered plant species throughout Sharjah.

Dr Mufid Samarai, a senior adviser at the Sharjah Research Academy, said the team, which has a temporary base at the university, were hoping to move to a permanent one early this year.

The new, permanent facility will house special laboratories for seed banks, such as rooms for seed studies, herbarium preparation, and cold and drying labs.

The laboratory equipment has been bought under the technical direction of the experts at Kew.

vtodorova@thenational.ae