Country Profiles

Jordan - Country Profile

Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Due to Jordan’s varied terrain, it is host to diverse ecosystems. From its four major ecosystems— desert, scarp and highland, sub-tropical, and freshwater—can be classified several sub-ecosystems, many of which are unique to Jordan, like that of the Dead Sea Basin (which is the lowest point on Earth) or the Harrat and Hammada deserts. Within the Great Rift Valley, including the ecozones of the Jordan River Basin, Dead Sea Basin, and the Gulf of Aqaba, is the sub-tropical ecosystem. These three ecozones are each host to a number of endemic species like the Serhani fish (Aphanius serhani) and the Dead Sea gara (Gara ghorenensis). The marine resources of the Gulf of Aqaba are of great economic value in terms of tourism, and the gulf itself, as Jordan’s only outlet to the sea, is important for transport and industry. To the east of the rift is the scarp and highland ecosystem, including forest ecosystems, grasslands, urban ecosystems, landscapes, and mountain ecosystems. It contains the largest remaining areas of natural woodland in Jordan, dominated by Pinus halepensis at higher elevations and by Quercus calliprinos and Q. ithaburensis at lower elevations where the original pine has been degraded. The flora and fauna of Jordan, but particularly of this ecosystem that contains 80% of Jordan’s cities, are facing continuous deterioration. The eastern three-quarters of Jordan is comprised of the desert ecosystem, with hammada (gravel/chert plains), harrat (basalt rock fields), sand dune deserts, and clay pans in closed drainage basins of the desert forming temporary lakes after heavy rains. The freshwater ecosystem of the country includes the Azraq Oasis, designated as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, and other smaller wetlands within the valley and seasonal ones within the desert.

The diversity of Jordan’s flora and fauna are indicative of their many origins. At the intersection of three continents, Jordan encapsulates four bio-geographical regions: the Mediterranean, Irano-Turanian, Saharo-Arabian and Sudanian penetration, however the country also has many endemic species. Of its 2,500 recorded species of vascular plants, representing about 1% of world flora, 100 are endemic, including Iris petrana, Jordan’s floral emblem, Cousinia dayi, Plantago maris-mortui, Crucianella transjordanica, Centaurea procurrens, Scrophularia nabataerum, Tamarix tetragyn, and T. palaestina. Medicinal plants are particularly important in Jordan, with a total of 485 species with curative or preventive health values. There are a total of 78 mammal species, and 425 bird species in Jordan. Its avifauna is especially rich because of its geographical location by the Great Rift Valley, lying en route for migratory north palearctic waterfowl. However, because of water over-extraction and habitat degradation in recent years, birds that used to stop at the Azraq Oasis on their migratory route no longer do so, instead spreading themselves out over the Jordan Valley as well. The Gulf of Aqaba hosts more than 1,000 species of fish, 250 species of coral, in addition to sponges, snails, crabs and sea turtles. Twenty percent of the mollusks and echinodermata are endemic. Jordan also hosts 102 species of herpetofauna, the majority of which are reptiles. Although invertebrates are estimated to form more than 70% of Jordan’s total number of faunal species, due to lack of comprehensive research, the exact number is unknown.

Over the last 120 years, many native Jordanian species have been lost and become nationally extinct, and plant diversity is facing a dramatic decline. In total, Jordan hosts 47 globally threatened species, as classified by the IUCN Red List. Out of its 78 species of mammals, 12 species are globally threatened, including the Arabian Oryx, Nubian Ibex and its three gazelle species, Dorcas Gazelle, Goitered Gazelle and one recently thought to be nationally extinct: the Mountain Gazelle Gazella gazelle. The Arabian Oryx has become nationally extinct due to excessive hunting and the Nubian Ibex was about to follow suit, but its population was brought back through captive breeding programs. There are also 15 globally threatened bird species present in Jordan, the most notable of which are the Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulate and the Saker Falcon Falco cherrug. There are 375 rare or very rare species of plants, 150 species are endangered, 18 of which are globally endangered on the IUCN list, and 75 are considered extinct. In the Gulf of Aqaba, many of the coral species are globally endangered and protected by several international conventions and treaties, such as the red and black corals.

Agriculture in Jordan is regionally focused on rain-fed wheat and barley on the plateau, and olives in the mountain areas, whereas intensely managed agricultural lands are situated in the Jordan Valley. However, rainfall has been declining over the past few years and has affected the amount of rain-fed agriculture available. Instead, underground water sources are becoming more prominently used and even over-pumped, supplying an increasing area of irrigated lands but leading to many cases of habitat degradation. Seasonal marshes in the Disi and Jafr areas are also being degraded by seasonal harvesting of barley and wheat. The growing of traditional cultures is decreasing, with several local breeds and varieties becoming rare and some, like the Jordanian native cattle breed, native Arabic horse, native chicken and Syrian donkey, Jordanian tomato, cucumber, squash, wheat, lentils, and barley, even being threatened. Conservation plans put in place for these native land races of cereal and field crops are doing well; however, native livestock species are not faring as well.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Threats to biodiversity in Jordan are largely induced by anthropogenic activities. These include intensive agricultural practices, use of agrochemicals, over-grazing, excessive hunting, unplanned development, urbanization, and pollution. They have led to the destruction of natural habitats and ecosystems, afflicting large mammal populations the most, as well as plant diversity due to species being isolated, and thus losing their genetic diversity and facing a higher risk of extinction. The First World War was the most destructive period for Jordan. A railroad was built across the country, greatly affecting the surroundings and also requiring timber for train fuel. During the Second World War, repeating rifles and vehicles were introduced, facilitating hunting to the point of depleting some wildlife to extinction. In some cases, animals left their natural environments but moved to other environments incapable of hosting such high populations. This was the case for deer, which fled the eastern desert to areas away from humans but that could not provide a suitable habitat.

As a scarce resource in the area, water is constantly in high demand—a trait which has not been beneficial to Jordan’s environment. The tip of the Gulf of Aqaba hosts the only sea port of Jordan and has therefore been engulfed by many anthropogenic activities in the last 50 years. A few cases are known where the coral reefs have been damaged because of algal blooms, pollution and human impact. Although the marine Aqaba Reserve, spanning the only “natural” 7 km left of the coast, has been established, legislation is not yet clear or enforced enough for coastal conservation. The Azraq Oasis, which used to be a major stopping point for migratory birds, was pumped dry in 1992, and has lost much of its biodiversity and ecological value. However, conservation efforts have been in place to resupply the oasis with water, attracting back a fraction of the biodiversity that used to be present.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Jordan first published its National Environment Strategy (NES) in 1991, the first of its kind in the Middle East. Following that, after the ratification of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Jordan’s NBSAP (2003) focused on five strategic goals: 1) conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and productivity of ecosystems through in situ conservation 2) promoting understanding of ecosystems and need for conservation 3) conservation of basic natural resources like soil, water, plant cover and climate 4) development of supporting incentives and legislation for conservation and sustainable use, and 5) cooperation and benefit-sharing of genetic resources with other countries. Projects and priority actions were outlined in the NBSAP, according to the themes of: Flora and Fauna Resources, Protection of Natural Resources, Agricultural Resources, Mineral Resources and Industry, Land Use and Water Resources, Economy, Legislation, and Awareness. In addition, cross-cutting strategies to address the synergies between the three conventions were also prioritized. These include: knowledge management, technical training and technology transfer, sustainable institution coordination mechanism, using research for policy-making, resource mobilization, and local community empowerment and mobilization.

In July 2012, Jordan had initiated activities to update its NBSAP.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

A network of 18 protected areas was identified and proposed, targeting a 15% cover of Jordan’s total area by 2017; 8 are now operating and 4 are under establishment. They are managed by a national NGO—The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN)—making it a uniquely decentralized form of management. Thirty-four rangeland reserves have also been declared, in the 3 categories of steppe reserves, desert reserves, and highland reserves, to manage and conserve vegetation cover by minimizing wood collection and grazing, managing watersheds and improving livestock quality and animal husbandry. These rangeland reserves, however, for various reasons, have not proven to be very effective. Additionally, 27 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) have been identified by BirdLife International and the RSCN, covering 8.5% of Jordan’s total area. Many IBAs are located in established protected areas, hence 7 are already protected; others are located in future proposed protected areas, however, there are still some IBAs for which no protection is planned. Thirteen Important Wetland Areas have also been identified, to help protect nationally and internationally important water and other threatened birds.

A number of data collection projects have been carried out in Jordan. Outside of protected areas, baseline surveys have been conducted by the RSCN, like the National Waterbird Census. Jordanian universities have also been playing a substantial role in biodiversity conservation by undertaking ecological research and ex situ conservation. This includes utilization of tissue culture techniques in laboratories as a conservation tool to propagate some plant species. A Forestry Seed Center was established 1992 within the Department of Afforestation and Forests to secure high quality forest seeds, and a Genetic Resources Unit was also established in 1993 for agricultural purposes.

An impressive set of biodiversity conservation projects is currently being implemented, with many past projects having been mainly based on GEF support. Conservation of soaring migratory birds in the eastern sector of the Africa-Eurasia flyway system has been a big focus, including the partial restoration of the Azraq Oasis. Captive breeding programs have also been established by the RSCN to breed and re-introduce some nationally extinct animals like the Arabian Oryx, Nubian Ibex and the Roe Deer. In terms of plants, there is also a project on the conservation of medicinal and herbal plants in place to conserve their rich variety of medicinal plant species and integrated ecosystem management is being implemented in the Jordan Rift Valley. In efforts to reduce air pollution, Jordan also started using unleaded fuel in 2008.

Several national governmental and non-governmental organizations have implemented environmental protection public awareness programs with focuses on pollution prevention, nature conservation and wildlife conservation, among others. These activities, including awareness and training programs, have been carried out with different means and media, by targeting students in different educational phases, as well as the general public.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Jordan’s Ministry of Environment recently underwent comprehensive reform, and can now be considered as representing best practice in Jordan in terms of strengthening public administration. Through an agreement with the Ministry of Environment, the non-governmental organization The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) plays a significant role in biodiversity conservation in Jordan. Not only does it manage all of Jordan’s protected areas and carry out surveys, but under the 2000 Agricultural Law No. 44, is also recognized as an agency enforcing hunting laws, in coordination with the Forestry Department rangers, the army, and the police. Additionally, the RSCN also cooperates with the Border Authority and the Ministries of Environment and Agriculture to control and monitor the invasion of alien species.

The overall legislative framework is in place but still requires further development. Most conventions and legislation for environmental protection are implemented through different government agencies. There are a total of 18 acts and 8 regulations, including articles dealing with animal protection to decrease pressure on species at risk and by-laws for the identification and establishment of protected areas. Although no specific laws for alien invasive species exist, there are several by-laws and regulations that address this issue, including site-specific regulations within the country’s nature reserves. Inspection campaigns on industrial facilities were intensified by the Ministry of Environment to verify compliance with environmental regulations. Furthermore, the Ministry has also promoted application of strategic environmental assessments and introduced new techniques to treat medical and solid wastes.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

To facilitate monitoring and coordinate activities among the police department, the RSCN and the Ministries of Agriculture and Environment, the “environmental police” system was established in 2006. The National Biodiversity Steering Committee was also established to review implementation during the process of developing the NBSAP, with committee members comprised of high-level representatives from relevant governmental and non-governmental organizations who gather once a year to review the status of implementation in Jordan. The Technical Advisory Group, composed of technical advisors and focal points within institutions, also assists in the process by advising the Steering Committee on relevant issues.