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Significance of Biodiversity in Egypt

Egypt lies at the northeast corner of Africa at the junction of four biogeographical regions, Irano-Turanian, Mediterranean, Saharo-Sindian and Afrotropical. At the same time it is at the center of the great Saharo-sindian desert belt that runs from Maorocco on the northwest corner of Africa to the high, cold deserts of central Asia. This unique position is enhanced by the circumstance that it is divided by the Nile, the longest river in the world. Most of Egypt is either arid or hyper arid, however, due to its very varied eco-zones, the country is home to a diversity of terrestrial habitats and a fauna and flora, which although low in species numbers and with few endemic species, is extremely varied in composition.

Egypt is bounded on its north and east by two largely enclosed seas, the Mediterranean Sea and Red Sea. The Red Sea is species rich and nurtures reef systems that are among the richest in the world as will as stands of mangroves that play vital role in the health of the sea. The reefs and the mangroves of the red sea are arguably among the most important vehicles of biodiversity in the world. However, the fauna and flora of the Red Sea is essentially a modified version of threat of the Indo-Pacific and it also has relatively few endemic species. Ecosystems and habitats must be maintained to safeguard species. Species must be protected in order to conserve ecosystems and habitats. In Egypt, the lack of species abundance and the relatively large number of eco-zones and habitats makes the preservation of both especially important.

What is Biodiversity about?

Biodiversity is the variety of plant and animal life together genetic diversity and assemblages of organisms. However, biodiversity is much more than numbers of plants and animals, it is what underpins human life and well-being.

The concept of biodiversity is so broad that it reflects the linkages between genes, species and ecosystems. Therefore, whether wildlife products or services from ecosystems are required or whether the aim is merely to protect ecosystems for posterity, these linkages must be reflected in the way humans manage the world.

The significance of biodiversity is seen particularly well at species level. Species provide the food, we eat the plants from which much of the world's medicine comes, the clothes we wear, the trees that re-oxygenate the air we breathe and many more benefits.

Gene provides the variations that make the system strong. For thousands of years man has recognized the importance of genetics in adapting plants to grow in such a way as to increase their yield and of crossing domestic animals to encourage the development of healthy animals with plenty of meat for human consumption. Sound crop-breeding policies increase the value of production significantly.

Ecosystems provide the habitats in which biodiversity can thrive. Coastal wetlands and the plants that live there, form spawning grounds for fish and crustaceans. Forest ecosystems help to regulate water runoff into rivers and to prevent flooding. The Amazon rainforest influences global climate while the presence or absence of vegetation can influence climate locally. The list is almost endless.

Diversity of Species

The numbers provided* in the table below are estimates which are likely to be lower than the real number of species in Egypt . This is due to the fact that many species are not yet documented.

Fauna No. of species
Insects 10000
Other invertebrates 4701
Fresh water fishes 85
Marine fishes 669
Amphibians 8
Terrestrial reptiles 99
Marine reptiles 5
Resident and breeding birds 150
Migratory and wintering birds 320
Terrestrial mammals 95
Marine mammals 13
Bats 22
Flora No. of species
Viruses 44
Bacteria 238
Fungi 1260
Algae 1148
Non-flowering vascular plants 337
Flowering plants 2094

* According to the Red Data Book (IUCN,2000)