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Important Plant Areas of Saudi Arabia

Number of IPAs: 4

Arid rocky landscape with palm trees

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has an active programme to identify IPAs. So far full site assessments for four have been published.

Diverse flora

KSA has a relatively rich and diverse flora. So far 2250 plant species have been recorded representing four floristic regions: the Saharo-Sindian; the Somalia-Masai; the Afromontane the Mediterranean. The mixing of these diverse floristic elements reflects the past climatic history of the region with tropical elements migrating through during hotter, wetter periods and temperate elements migrating south during cooler periods – each migration leaving relic populations surviving in climatic refugia such as on mountain tops and cliffs.

This complex history gives rise to the present unique vegetation of the region where savannah-like Acacia woodlands reminiscent of tropical Africa mix with the steppe vegetation reminiscent of the great plateaus of SW and Central Asia and the forests and shrublands of the Mediterranean and where mountain refugia harbour plant relics of these past migration.

IPA habitats

The IPAs so far published reflect the great diversity of vegetation and habitats in KSA from ‘Uruq Bani Ma’arid, an iconic hyper-arid sand desert representing the largest sand sea on Earth, the only tropical sand desert in Asia and an ecological refuge for iconic wildlife of the desert. To the Farasan Islands with their mangrove woodlands and the isolated granite domes of Jabal Aja’ and the sandstone canyon of Jabal Qaraqir which provide relatively cool & moist Pleistocene refuge and harbour relict plants of Mediterranean & Irano-Turanian origin.

Schedules of several sites are being prepared including for the deep, dramatic canyon of Wadi Lajb which contains the richest and best-preserved remnant of relict valley forest in Saudi Arabia and the isolated mountains of NW KSA including Jabal al-Lawz range where snow appears regularly and the isolated massifs of the spectacular Jabal ad-Dubbagh range both providing important Pleistocene climatic refugia.


Threats to the plants and vegetation of KSA are intense over-grazing combined with very rapid economic development