Country Profiles

Yemen - 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.

Yemen hosts a variety of ecosystems and habitats, ranging from coastal mangroves, shrub lands and dunes along the coastal plains to the eastern deserts, and an array of montane habitats. The land is represented by desert (57% of the total land area) with limited use potential. Together with forest and woodlands, rangelands comprise almost 40% of the land area, with the remaining 3% represented by arable land supporting rich crop diversity. Yemen is a generally mountainous country. Such altitudinal variation results in a great diversity in climates and landscapes and corresponds to where the majority of endemic taxa are found. Positioned at the juncture of three major biogeographic regions (Palearctic, Afrotropical, Oriental), and with a wide range of terrestrial, coastal, and marine landforms, Yemen is characterized by a rich variety of natural habitats, species and genetic diversity, including many endemic species. These resources are of major economic importance because of their potential for tourism and the wildlife and fisheries they support.

Socotra Island is unique in regard to its flora and, like many islands, has a high level of endemism. Plant populations in Yemen are thought to have declined considerably; agricultural production has undergone dramatic changes due to the expansion of Qat plantations at the expense of other crops. For even representative portions of Yemen’s natural biotic wealth to remain for future generations, these alarming trends demand urgent conservation attention. The flora of Yemen is very rich and heterogeneous with endemism being generally very high among the succulent plants. Forest resources are widely used in industry and construction and medicinal and aromatic plants play an important role in the lives of most Yemenis who use them as traditional remedies to cure diseases. They are also used as cosmetics, condiments, coloring and flavoring agents. Crops such as wheat, lentil and millet are examples of local varieties whose yield and quality are deteriorating as a result of the introduction of homogenous high-yielding varieties. For a long time, large mammals have been under considerable pressure; some have vanished from the country and most others have become rare and threatened. Yemen also has very rich birdlife (there appears to be a healthy raptor population).

Yemen’s coastline is over 2,500 km long and its coastal and marine environment both diverse and attractive, including rocky and sandy coasts to saline mud flats, mangrove swamps, coral reefs and seagrass beds that are of major economic importance for fisheries and tourism. Fisheries are considered a promising sector for sustainable development. Fish has already become Yemen’s third most important food commodity export, and is also nutritionally significant, contributing to local food security by providing an important source of animal protein. The formerly rich fish resources on the country's continental shelf are now reduced through outtake. Dugongs and several species of dolphins and whales are found in good numbers in several places along the Red Sea.

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.

Over the last several decades, the area of natural habitat has decreased or been degraded, through over-exploitation of range resources, land conversion, poor agricultural practices and the pressures of an ever-expanding population (the current growth rate is around 3.5% per annum which is one of the highest in the region). Coral reefs and seagrass are destroyed by trawling and other unsuitable harvesting methods causing loss of productivity and threatening endemic and rare species. Oil exploration and transport resulting in several oil spills, along with sewage discharge, agro-chemicals flushed by floods and sedimentation from urban development pose further threats to coral reefs. Coastal and marine resources are threatened by overfishing, spear-fishing, aquarium fishing and dynamite fishing as well as by the cutting of mangroves for wood, animal feed and fuelwood supply. Industrial and urban development, as well as extensive coastal development, land filling, and coastal engineering are dramatically altering certain coastal areas. The quantity and quality of freshwater are threatened by numerous factors, including overuse of water sources, degradation of wetland ecosystems, excessive use of pesticides, misuse of fertilizers, untreated wastewater and increased industrial waste.

The country’s vegetation cover is being drastically reduced by rapid degradation of the environment which is a direct result of desertification and droughts. Agricultural production has undergone dramatic changes due to the expansion of Qat plantations at the expense of other crops. In recent decades, human activity has transformed the landscape and overexploited available biological resources, which has resulted in the deterioration of many habitats, a major reduction in plant and animal species and the extinction of endemic, rare and endangered species. Furthermore, the most sizeable mammals have long since been hunted into extinction in the country where firearms abound and a large proportion of the natural forests have been cut down.

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.

Yemen’s NBSAP (2005) was developed along the following five principles: equity; solidarity and the sharing of responsibility; ecological soundness; know-how and eco-technology; Islamic values. In order to promote traditional knowledge, local communities have been involved in the collection of indigenous knowledge during surveys conducted prior to the establishment of terrestrial and marine protected areas (this knowledge is used in protected areas management). Also, local communities participated in the establishment of protected areas, such as the ones established in the Socotra Archipelago. Socotra, Aden Wetlands and Bura’a protected areas are currently successfully managed by the local communities and NGOs, providing good examples of the effectiveness of a participatory management approach supported by the Government with assistance from cooperation donors. However, lack of infrastructure to provide services for tourists will affect income generation to protected areas, which will in turn affect socioeconomic development in these areas. A zoning plan was developed for the Socotra Archipelago, which was declared as a World Heritage Site in 2008. Stock assessment has been undertaken for marine resources. In addition, several memorandums of understanding were signed with neighbouring countries in regard to transboundary protected areas.

A Land Resource Management Center has been established to expand sustainable use which has resulted in the development of a national inventory and database on fauna and flora, studies on land use and watershed plans for Abyan and Shbwa, as well as surveys on soil and mapping of these two regions. In addition, laws have been adopted to prohibit animal killing and hunting. A National Adaption Programme was adopted related to climate change and energy and options were developed to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Public awareness and participation were increased with the preparation of various materials on biodiversity conservation, preparation and dissemination of systematic programs through radio and TV, periodical journals and pamphlets and integration of the environment in school curriculums.

Yemen is currently undertaking activities regarding updating its NBSAP and setting national targets within the flexible global framework, while taking into account national needs and priorities.

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.

Numerous actions have been taken for ex situ conservation. For instance, a National Genetic Resources Center has been established in Sana’a University. A genetic resources unit within the Agricultural Research and Extension Authority (AREA), supported by UNDP, has also been established to collect and conserve wild and crop plant species (both native and exotic). Research has been carried out in regard to plant breeding of field crops (the vegetable breeding program for potato, tomato and onion has been very successful). In relation to the gene bank of field crops, fodder and vegetable, AREA has a good collection at headquarters in Dhamar although its facility is modest. Major problems include an unreliable supply of power and lack of well-trained staff to maintain, evaluate and characterize the germplasm in an adequate manner. Yemen also hosts a National Herbarium, and its first botanic garden has been established in Taiz City. The Environment Protection Authority also encourages local communities to conserve genetic diversity in their natural sites or areas.

There were several attempts to cultivate coastal shrimps, especially in Al-Luhayya in the Hodeidah Governorate, by the private sector. The Marine Research Center in Aden conducted several experiments to raise coastal shrimps and, as a result, was able to breed and cultivate small shrimps in the laboratory. However, these attempts did not materialize into concrete actions to reintroduce the reared species into their natural habitats and compensate for the high percentage loss of this valuable species. To reduce pressures on natural resources, laws or bylaws were issued to ban fishing in the spawning season and livelihood alternatives made available to local communities.

The Taiz Zoo succeeded in reproducing the Arabian leopard in a traditional manner, with the number of Arabian leopards having becoming so large that the carrying capacity of the zoo was exceeded. In spite of the success of this initiative, the Government faces difficulties reintroducing the leopards into their natural habitats due to a lack of physical, technical and financial capacities.

Although the achievements of actions are limited, they have nevertheless contributed to poverty reduction, an increase in income, better management, sustainable use and conservation of natural resources in protected areas.

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.

Efforts have been made to mainstream biodiversity conservation into the plans and programs in the country through the development of the new national strategy for economic development and poverty reduction. Environment has been established as a sector and is being defined as a cross-cutting issue. As such, the components of biodiversity have been established as priority areas for Yemen, especially in the environment sector, forestry, agriculture, private sector development, tourism, etc. The Law on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was amended to integrate wider aspects of biodiversity. However, the legislative framework remains inadequate and there is weak enforcement of eco-tourism legislation.

One of the major challenges in the implementation of the Convention is the lack of coordination of activities related to biodiversity. No policy specific to biodiversity exists and NGO capacity in the field of biodiversity conservation is limited. To date, many activities for the implementation of the Convention have been implemented as a result of projects financed by the GEF, UNDP, UNEP, the World Bank and other donors (representing 80% of the total funding). Training is provided to local communities and NGOs on biodiversity conservation and management of protected areas. Study tours are arranged for protected areas managers. However, the resources are still inadequate to effectively implement the NBSAP and coordinate and monitor biodiversity activities.

Another challenge is presented by the lack of coordination among environmental agencies and fragmentation in relation to information exchange and management, resulting in the proliferation of several incompatible geographical information systems, which produce unreliable, inaccurate and inconsistent information for managing and monitoring natural resources. This situation is aggravated by limited funding, lack of technical capacity and trained manpower to maintain and operate established systems sustainably. Fragmented and uncoordinated development of policies and legislations, in addition to deficiencies in regulatory and economic policies, are key factors contributing to biodiversity loss and land degradation.

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.

The eco-tourism department was established to manage and monitor the impacts of ecotourism and a management plan was developed for the coastal zones of Aden and other coastal areas. There is also a programme (Vision 2025) that supports environmental and poverty reduction actions and proposes measures on the basis of a review of problems, such as degradation of land resources, natural habitats and biodiversity, as well as the development and implementation of sustainable management and monitoring programmes for water and land resources, agriculture, the coastal zone and biodiversity.