The United Arab Emirates in general and the Emirate of Sharjah in particular, are rich and unique in ecological diversity. The diverse ecosystem encompasses great variety of plants and animals. Many of the natural habitats in this region are facing threats both naturally and anthropologically. Therefore, conservation of the natural habitats has become a priority for the Emirate of Sharjah.
The establishment of Sharjah Seed Bank and Herbarium Research Laboratory (SSBH) at the University of Sharjah is a crucial step forward towards the conservation of the natural ecosystems of the entire region.
Dr. Amr Abdul Hamid, special advisor for education to H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, emphasised the personal interest and support of H.H. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah, towards the conservation of the habitat and ecosystem for the region, which led to the establishment of the SSBH with technical support from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, U.K. through a Memorandum of Understanding. Sharjah Research Academy (SRA) supports the applied research for conservation of desert environments and natural resources carried out at SSBH.
The team at the SSBH which is a part of SRA, headed by Dr. Ali El-Keblawy, leading scientist in the field of desert ecology and Professor at the University of Sharjah, has secured funds for five different research projects from the Government of Sharjah, National Research Foundation (Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research in the U.A.E.), Emirates Foundation and the Qatar Foundation, and the combined fund for projects is AED 5,000,000. All of the projects are concerned with the conservation of habitats and investigation of the feasibility of using native plants for economically beneficial purposes.
Dr. Ali El-Keblawy reported that since inception, the SSBH has collected a total of 637 viable seed collections representing 340 species from the Emirate of Sharjah. The total weight of these collections is more than 40 kg with a total number of about 47.5 million seeds. In addition, 925 herbarium specimens representing 379 species have been collected and are currently conserved in the SSBH herbarium. The SSBH has identified endangered species of plants through extensive surveys of the flora of the Emirate of Sharjah. One of the huge successes of SSBH in recent time is the discovery of six new species of flora in the country.
Dr. Mufid Samarai, senior advisor at SRA, and the research team are looking forward to moving to the new facility by the first quarter of 2014. This new facility will house the special laboratories for the SSBH, specifically the seed studies lab, the herbarium preparation room, the cold room, the drying room, the preparation room, and the plant reception room. The new facility will also include a herbarium for seeds collected through out the region. The herbarium is designed to serve for centuries to come.
The new facility also holds special laboratories for the SRA, particularly the spectrophotometry and microscopy, the environmental research (water, air, soil) laboratory, and analytical research laboratory.