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Animal and plant life
Australia is one of the most diverse countries on the planet. It has a variety of climates and environments, so has a great variety of ecosystems. Within Australia you can find large temperate, desert and tropical areas.
It is home to more than one million species of plants and animals, many of which are found nowhere else in the world, and less than half have been described scientifically.
About 85 per cent of flowering plants, 84 per cent of mammals, more than 45 per cent of birds, and 89 per cent of inshore, freshwater fish are unique to Australia.
Australia is richly endowed with marsupials-there are more than 140 species.
At least 18 exotic mammals have established feral populations in Australia, with cats and foxes responsible for the decline and extinction of several native animals.
At least 2700 non-native (introduced) plants have established populations in Australia. Sixty eight per cent of these introduced plants are considered a problem for natural ecosystems.
One of Australia’s most important and dominant trees is the eucalypt. This drought-tolerant species has, over time, come to be the dominant species in most areas of Australia. It requires fire for it to regenerate, so periodical bushfires, while dangerous to humans and animals, are in fact essential for the environment.
Australia has many unique animals — including the national symbol, the kangaroo. However Australia also has many introduced species, some of which have challenged and replaced the native equivalents. One of the most interesting introduced species is the camel — camels brought to Australia to help inland desert exploration in the 1800s have flourished, and many are now exported back to Arab areas both as meat and as racing animals.
Plants in Kuwait are adapted to survive in the harsh conditions and extreme temperatures. However, four major ecosystems may be recognised, they are:
Sand-dune ecosystem: Some perennial shrubs which have medicinal value grow here. The other dominant plantation is the annual grass.
Salt-marshes and saline depressions: These are common along the shores of Kuwait. The plant-life here has to be more that just salt-tolerant since this is very much a marine dominated environment. A clearly defined zonation of plants associated with salt-marshes are found here.
Desert: This is dominated by bushy clamps of perennial desert grass. However, in low depressions where occasional rainfall gathers, attractive purple or blue coloured flowers grow aplenty.
Kuwait is home to numerous species of insects, animals and birds. Among the diverse insects the most attractive group is that of butterflies. Several beautiful varieties are found here and the best time to see them is Spring. There is a variety of reptiles — snakes, lizards, geckos etc. There are 50 listed varieties of mammals, and a number of them are endangered species. Some commonly found animals include hedgehog, wolf, wild cat, gazelle. Nearly 280 species of birds have been recorded here, most of them migratory.
The location of Qatar, being a part of the large land mass of the Arabian Peninsula, plays an essential role in the make up of its flora and fauna.
Ephemerals, annuals, dwarf woody perennials, few tree species and perennial grasses are the most common features of plant life forms in the inland levelled parts of the country. Generally the inland vegetation is sparse, with vast areas either barren or with few sporadic species. However, well established plant communities grow in depressions and water catchment areas.
The geographical location of Qatar and the presence of some islands make it a destination locality for migratory birds. However, industrial and civil life affect the life of birds both negatively and positively. For example due to pollutants and civil life, some species have become extinct; on the other hand, increased cultivated areas like palm farms and public gardens, the appearance of sewage water ponds and efforts towards preservation of ecosystems, have led to attraction of more migratory birds to Qatar.
Common animals include the Ethiopian hedgehog, Cape hare, jerboa, and gerbils.
United Arab Emirates
We do not often think of the desert in terms of vegetation, and it is true that one can travel for many miles without seeing much in the way of plant-life, but the flora is there, specially adapted to the inhospitable conditions, like the palm trees growing in the dunes, their roots reaching down to the water table Other valiant plants such as Tribulus species manage to survive the extremes of heat and drought, providing grazing for domesticated and wild ungulates. Ghaf also provide shelter and grazing. And then there are the spring rains which can really bring the desert to life with veritable fields of grasses and brightly flowering plants carpeting the sandy expanses.
Reptiles are the dominant animal group in the desert, including a number of lizards, ranging from the delicate geckos to the larger and more robust dhubs or spiny-tailed lizards, together with the giant of desert lizards, the monitor, which can be nearly a metre in length. You may encounter several species of snake in the desert, the commonest being the poisonous horned viper.
Few animals can tolerate the extreme heat of the desert for long so they are obliged to adopt one of a number of strategies. For many this involves burrowing, spending long periods resting in holes well below the surface, whilst others such as the sand skink and the sand boa move rapidly beneath the surface of uncompacted sand. A high proportion of species are nocturnal, coming out only at night when it is cooler, and some aestivate, i.e. spend the summer months underground in a condition of torpor similar to hibernation.
Birds cannot burrow or aestivate, but they do migrate. The number of species resident in the desert are very few, but this was probably always so. The most desert-adapted species resident in the UAE are the hoopoe lark, the cream-coloured courser and the black-crowned finch lark. The long legged buzzard, little owl and desert eagle owl maintain small breeding populations, and the brown-necked raven is not uncommon. In the autumn and winter months the resident birds are joined by a range of migrants which breed in Central Asia – various species of lark, wheatear and warbler, as well as the much-prized houbara bustard.
In general, desert mammals have not fared as well as the birds or reptiles. Within the last few decades the desert has experienced local extinctions of the wolf, oryx, striped hyaena, jackal and honey badger. Two species of gazelle still survive, though both are rare and with limited ranges. The sand gazelle is present to the south of the Liwa and the mountain gazelle occurs in an area bordered by the major roads between Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Al Ain. The sand cat is believed to have been reduced to a seriously low level but data is lacking because this is such a shy nocturnal animal. The beautiful little Rueppell’s fox and even the cape hare are probably far less numerous than they used to be, however the main stronghold for these species is thought to be the western part of Abu Dhabi emirate. The lesser jerboa and three species of hedgehog survive, but again are shy creatures and therefore difficult to see.
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