Dana Biosphere Reserve in Jordan is an eco-tourism oasis in the desert

February 21, 2012

February 21, 2012 - The "Dana Biosphere Reserve in Jordan is an eco-tourism oasis in the desert" is the title of the cover story published Sunday, February 17, on the Washington Post Travel section (click on the link to read the full article).

Established in 1989, Dana Biosphere Reserve is Jordan’s largest nature reserve, covering some 320 km2 of rugged and beautiful landscape along the face of the Great Rift Valley. It sweeps down in a series of mountain ridges, from the 1500m high plateau near Quadesiyya to the desert plains of Wadi Araba. The mountains are cut by many steep-sided wadis, often lined with a lush growth of trees and shrubs. Its geology is as varied as its landscape, switching from limestone to sandstone to granite.

Dana Biosphere Reserve is the only reserve in Jordan that includes the four different bio-geographical zones of the country; Mediterranean, Irano-Turanian, Saharo Arabian and Sudanian penetration. As such, it is the most diverse nature reserve in the country in terms of habitats and species, hosting several vegetation types, including the Phoenician Juniper, evergreen oak, sand dunes, acacia, and rocky sudanian, among others. It is also home to the southernmost remaining forest community of Cypress Cupressus simpervirens.

More than 800 plant species can be found within the reserve, three of which have only ever been recorded in Dana and nowhere else in the world. Their Latin names include the word ‘Dana’ in them.

Dana supports a wide variety of wildlife, including many rare species of plants and animals. It is home to several globally threatened species of birds and mammals, such as Syrian Serin Serinus syriacus, Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni, Blanford's Fox Vulpes cana and Nubian Ibex Capra nubiana. The largest breeding colony in the world for Syrian Serin is located in Dana, while the Lesser Kestrel is also found to breed in the area.

The Royal Society for the Conversation of Nature (RSCN) and its network of nature preserves has been supported by a series of World Bank-implemented GEF projects over the past 15 years, in addition to USAID funding and UNDP-implemented grants. 

The RSCN took pioneering steps in its attempt to conserve the precious biodiversity in Dana, putting together the first protected area management plan in Jordan, and making Dana Biosphere Reserve into a model of integrated conservation and socio-economic development. This plan set objectives, strategies, and priorities that ultimately seek to find a balance between protecting Dana’s natural wonders and meeting the needs of local people.

This strategy mostly based on the concept of zoning - called Special Conservation Areas - cordons off areas from hunting and overgrazing, while compensating the agrarian economy by introducing alternative livelihoods. By promoting eco-tourism, the scheme has provided much-needed job opportunities and a market for local products, bringing economic stability to some of Jordan’s poorest rural communities.

To date, RSCN has received several global awards for its success in alleviating poverty and creating job opportunities for local communities, in combination with integrating nature conservation.

Major threats to the natural environment of the area still include overgrazing, woodcutting, and hunting, mainly of Ibex and Chukar.

For more information on the GEF funded projects for the Dana Biospehere see the "Conservation of the Dana and Azraq Protected Areas" project and the "Final Consolidation and Conservation of Azraq Wetlands and Dana Wildlands by RSCN to Address New Pressures".

More information on the Dana reserve can be found also on the RSCN official website.