Ecological Prominence of Juniperus phoenicea L. Growing in Gebel Halal, North Sinai, Egypt

Abdelraouf A. Moustafa, Mohamed S. Zaghloul, Raafat H. Abd El-Wahab, Dina H. Alsharkawy, Mona A. Ismail and Ashraf A. Salman

Abstract

Identifying diversity, distribution, and habitats of interest species is an important task for developing conservation and restoration programs. Juniperus phoenicea has suffered immense destruction and degradation over the last few decades on the anticlines of North Sinai. Therefore, this study evaluated the ecological status of J. phoenicea assemblages in Gebel Halal, and analyzed floristic composition, distribution and species diversity in different habitats. Germination treatments Juniper seeds were also considered. The results showed that the surveyed area of Gebel Halal harbors 73 plant species including 50 medicinal plant species representing 69% of the recorded species, of which 17 species were found only in the mountainous area. Soils of gorge habitats are the richest soil in organic matter (2.22%), and silt and clay content (17.19%). These conditions support dense vegetation of J. phoenicea assemblages associated with many sub-shrubs, shrubs and annuals. Mean canopy cover of J. phoenicea at gorge habitats is 14.21% (±6.45 SD, ±3.73 SE), and mean diameter is 3.53 m (±1.29 SD, ±0.74 SE). The study area showed also assemblages of Acacia pachyceras at wadi habitats; Anabasis articulata, Ballota undulata and Lycium shawii at slope habitats. Associated species include Zygophyllum dumosum, Chiliadenus montanus and Globularia arabica. Ecological characterization and floristic composition were most influenced by climatic and edaphic factors. Isolated patches of the remnant assemblages of Juniperus phoenicea persist in gorges (220-400m altitude) growing on fractures of smooth-faced limestone outcrops of Gebel Halal. Assemblages of J. phoenicea are considered local threatened endemic Mediterranean type mainly due to human disturbances. The results of the preliminary germination experiments showed low germination percentages when seeds were shaken with gravel and coarse sand for 15 minutes (20%), and when seeds were soaked in concentrated acids for 5 or 10 minutes (10%). In conclusion, the ecological conditions for J. phoenicea indicated that it is an endangered species. Immediate protection of the remaining J. phoenicea trees and future restoration programs should be the priority for conservation strategies of this endemic assemblage type. The anticlines of North Sinai that harbor J. phoenicea assemblages should be listed as a priority habitat in the national conservation plan.

Keywords: Floristic composition, Gebel Halal, Juniperus phoenicea, Sinai anticlines, Species richness.


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