Overgrazing has seen many plants disappear from the Arabian desert landscape. A holistic approach is required to ensure restoration activities succeed.View image slideshow

Project title: Ecological restoration in Saudi Arabia; the Thumama Park Restoration Trial

Dates: 2011 - 2015

Funding: Arriyadh Development Authority

Location: Thumama Park, Riyadh Region, Saudi Arabia

Research themes

  • ecohydrology
  • ecophysiology
  • ecology
  • seed enhancement

Project description

The Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority, as part of its role in the global community of Botanic Gardens, has developed a program of research and extension initiatives working with the Arriyadh Development Authority in Saudi Arabia. The main aim of the program is to identify low cost, scalable and science-based solutions to repair and enhance landscapes and ecosystems in the Arriyadh region.

To date, over 99,000 Acacia plants and 140,000 seeds have been installed in dedicated irrigated scientific trials and associated environmental plantings.

Results to date indicate:

  • Methodology developed for high survival rates (>90%) for the Acacia species in Thumama Park under specified irrigation regimes and precise water delivery to the root zone.
  • Important fundamental knowledge relating to root growth and plant physiology leading to a better understanding of complex plant soil interactions for optimising plant survival in the long-term.
  • Substantial benefit of anti-stress chemicals for species subjected to ultralow volume irrigation.
  • Potential for mechanical seeding and other direct seeding methods will result in more cost-effective restoration in some sites and conditions.

Key staff

Dr Jason Stevens, Mr Patrick Courtney, Prof Kingsley Dixon


Arriyadh Development Authority


K Dixon (2014) Ecological restoration in Saudi Arabia. The Thumama Park Restoration Trial. Proven (knowledge driven), cost effective, scalable restoration solutions. Conference on Ecological and Ecosystem Restoration. August 2014. New Orleans Louisiana.

Trial site highlighting the irrigation infrastructure and seedling development at Thumama Park where 45,000 Acacia seedlings were planted as part of Phase 1. Understanding seedling water use and gas exchange of target plant species using ecophysiology techniques. Direct seeding trials of three native species. The project team examining seed collection of three Acacia species for use in the restoration trial. Success - Acacia seedlings emerging from soil. Boxes were used to protect seedlings from drying winds during the critical establishment phase. The Arabian desert in full flower.

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