Middle East North Africa Science Platform
Seed banks: the last line of defense against a threatening global food crisis
As climate breakdown and worldwide conflict continue to place the food system at risk, seed banks from the Arctic to Lebanon try to safeguard biodiversity.
'The seed bank that escaped Syria’s war' ICARDA, Beirut, Lebanon
Originally headquartered in Aleppo, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) gene bank became a casualty of the Syrian war and was forced to close in 2012. It is the only institution to ever make a withdrawal from Svalbard which it used to rebuild its collection, now split between Lebanon and Morocco. “For us it was invaluable,” said Hassan Machlab, country manager for Lebanon, Jordan & Palestine at ICARDA. “You cannot put a price on this collection.”
The Regional Impacts of Climate Change
Report focused on 21 countries of the predominantly arid and semi-arid region of the Middle East and central Asia. The region covers approximately 9% of the world's land area. It is dominated by arid (50%) and semi-arid (11%) lands.
The region is vulnerable to climate change because it is dry and water availability is thus limited. In some countries, the ability to adapt to the impacts of climate change will be reduced by a lack of infrastructure.
IPCC AR6 finds unequivocal evidence
'Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published the first part of its sixth report AR6. On the current status of the climate-The Physical Science Basis :
'A.1 It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred.
A.2 The scale of recent changes across the climate system as a whole and the present state of many aspects of the climate system are unprecedented over many centuries to many thousands of years.
A.3 Human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe. Evidence of observed changes in extremes such as heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts, and tropical cyclones, and, in particular, their attribution to human influence, has strengthened since AR5.
A.4 Improved knowledge of climate processes, paleoclimate evidence and the response of the climate system to increasing radiative forcing gives a best estimate of equilibrium climate sensitivity of 3°C with a narrower range compared to AR5.'
Almarri et al., 2021, Cell , https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2021.07.013
'High-coverage resource of physically phased genomes from eight Middle Eastern populations provides insights into a genetically understudied region.
-Middle Easterners do not have ancestry from an early out-of Africa expansion. -Basal Eurasian and African ancestry in Arabians deplete their Neanderthal ancestry. -Populations experienced bottlenecks overlapping aridification events
-Identification of recent single and polygenic signals of selection in Arabia.
It enhances our understanding of regional ancestry, the spread of languages, the effects of climate change on populations, and the evolutionary history of genetic variants.'
The MENA climate is characterised by arid and semi-arid zones and humans have used multiple adaption strategies to build civilisations and communities. Climate change is forcing major rethink of science, technology, innovation and sustainable development approaches to manage change and prepare for the future.
Latest research : 'results corroborate previous studies projecting the MENA region to host global hot spots for drought in the late twenty-first century.
The potential impacts of projected changes in human and natural ecosystems need to be assessed in a rigorous way to inform risk reduction decisions.'
Driouech, F., ElRhaz, K., Moufouma-Okia, W. et al. Assessing Future Changes of Climate Extreme Events in the CORDEX-MENA Region Using Regional Climate Model ALADIN-Climate. Earth Syst Environ 4, 477–492 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41748-020-00169-3
Palestine’s Research Capacity Is Limited by Multiple Challenges, Scholars Say
'Higher-education institutions in the Palestinian territories face multiple challenges in their efforts to advance Palestine’s research capacity, scholars say. While some academics attribute this failure to restrictions imposed by Israel, others point to additional reasons.
The task is “very difficult and complex,” Yousef Najajreh, a researcher who studies anti-cancer drugs, said during a recent webinar organised by Scientists for Palestine, an organisation that aims to promote the integration of the Palestinian Territories into the international scientific community. Najajreh, who is a former dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy at Al-Quds University, added: “We are faced with all sorts of problems, starting from the lack of a culture of teamwork, the lack of financial resources, a shortage of infrastructure, transportation, and difficulties in sending samples abroad. As you know, we are a semi-state and not an independent one.'
Birth of an Arabian leopard cub in Saudi Arabia hailed as important step in efforts to save species.
The cub is the latest of 16 born in 2021 at the Arabian Leopard Breeding Center in the Prince Saud Al-Faisal Wildlife Research Center in Taif.
The Arabian leopard is classified as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and numbers in the wild have declined to fewer than 200 because of poaching and loss of habitat. However, that figure is uncertain as data is hard to come by for this elusive creature, more often viewed through a camera trap. Expert from Oman -Hadi Al Hikmani, Office for Conservation of the Environment, 100 Muscat, Oman
'Nature Middle East'
'UK-based Egyptian computer science lecturer Mai Elshehaly considers the need for a more inclusive narrative that recognizes the diversity of women in STEM.'
'Mai Elshehaly is a lecturer in computer science at the University of Bradford, UK. Recently, two young women from very different backgrounds and stages in their education asked me if a successful academic career in computer science was possible for ‘someone like them’. Their questions made me think about what was behind the lack of confidence in their ability to excel.'
In February, 2020, a Striped Hyena was released after ten months of nursing care by staff and volunteers at the Palestine Museum of Natural History; a huge victory in a small world.
Research conducted over time in occupied Palestine placed awareness of the Striped Hyena (Hyaena hyaena syriaca) as being among animals threatened globally according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/ 10274/45195080) as well as being endangered locally. It is widely distributed across Asia, Africa and the Middle East indicating transitional stages among known subspecies. The Striped Hyena is the only hyena of four global species found within the Palestinian territories.
The primary mission of the Palestine Museum of Natural History (PMNH) and its companion, the Institute of Biodiversity Research (PIBR) is to promote research and educate people.
The importance of conserving and protecting our natural world places strong emphasis on the teaching of elementary and high school students at the Museum.
Most important is to train the young people to pass on their acquired knowledge so as to promote responsible behavior between people and the environment. To that end, students coming to the Museum play a critical role.
MENA food security
The projected impacts of climate change on food security in the Middle East and North Africa(MENA)
' The BBC'
' Syrian refugees at Za'atari camp in Jordan and scientists from the University of Sheffield in the UK are working together to create a way to grow healthy, fresh food with nothing but water and old mattress foam.
These 'recycled gardens' use the mattresses in place of the soil, which solves two problems in one: It reuses the mountain of plastic mattresses that have piled up in the camp and it allows everyone to grow fresh food in a crowded, desert environment.'
' The independent'
Temperatures in Qatar – one of the hottest places on Earth – have risen so much that authorities have installed air conditioning in the open air including in streets and outdoor markets.
IPCC: UN climate change report calls for change to human diet.
Efforts to curb greenhouse gas-emissions and the impacts of global warming will fall significantly short without drastic changes in global land use, agriculture and human diets, leading researchers warn in a high-level report commissioned by the United Nations.
' Efforts are underway to conduct faunal and floral biodiversity studies in Wadi Zarqa al-Ulwi ,Palestine, to determine the most threatened and endangered species according to the IUCN Red Data Book; identify threats to the existing ecosystems in the wadi; and carry out an environmental-awareness and education program in the area that would lead to sustainability..'
' A Water & Energy Nexus would create a healthy interconnectedness and interdependence between the Levant countries.
The Water-Energy Nexus Project aims at researching and advocating for a Water and Sustainable Energy Nexus approach to counter the effects of climate change and its potential negative security implications, while providing solutions to water scarcity in the region.'
' A a monumental construction effort is making headway. Located deep within Dubai's desert interior, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park continues to grow and has just passed another milestone.
In its eighth year of development, once finished, the $13.6 billion investment could power as many as 1.3 million homes, reducing carbon emissions by 6.5 million tonnes annually..'
' A UN report presents the first global assessment of biodiversity for food and agriculture (BFA) and represents critical reading for scientists, policy makers and the wider stakeholders in the MENA.
It describes the many contributions that BFA makes to food security and nutrition, livelihoods, the resilience of production systems, the sustainable intensification of food production and the supply of multiple ecosystem services; the major drivers of change affecting BFA; the status and trends of various components of BFA; the state of management of BFA; the state of policies, institutions and capacities that support the sustainable use and conservation of BFA; and needs and challenges in the management of BFA.'
'Middle East Eye'
'A group of volunteers from western Libya is striving to protect Farwa, a home to turtles and flamingos, from neglect and disaster.'
'Researchers from around the world can help to support and collaborate with colleagues in troubled regions.'
'In the Palestinian territories, science struggles against all odds
Travel restrictions and paltry funding hamper researchers, who are trying to build a scientific base.'
'Can a breakthrough in stem-cell research revolutionize feminism? Can a scientist apply the scientific method to her own life to find solutions to social problems?
In Five Scarves, Jordanian molecular biologist Rana Dajani reveals with passion and cogency how she has explored those possibilities. She speaks to humanity’s capacity to overcome challenges — not least, improving the treatment of women and children.'
'The Middle East and North Africa is becoming a hot bed of activity for research, particularly in the fields of Electrical & Electronic Engineering, Materials Science, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering.
A recent report explores the research landscape across the MENA identifying the most prolific institutions for research output, notable areas of research concentration and the most cited papers coming out of each country. '
A professor in Oman has come up with a discovery that promises a breakthrough solution to the issue of carbon emissions on a global level: a rock commonly found just under the crust of the earth could soak up the planet’s entire carbon dioxide emissions, even without being mined.
Palestine Museum of Natural History
The Palestine Institute of Biodiversity Research and its Palestine Museum of Natural History (PMNH) works to research, educate and conserve our natural world, culture and heritage and use knowledge to promote responsible human interactions with our environment.
Threat of 3C warming to Alexandria
The UN is warning that we are on course for 3C of global warming and the report will be published shortly. The impact of such a rise in global temperature is projected to be devastating to cities in coastal regions.
The IPCC reported that Alexandria’s beaches would be submerged even with a 0.5-metre sea-level rise, while 8 million people would be displaced by flooding in Alexandria and the Nile Delta if no protective measures are taken. A 3C rise threatens far greater damage than that with added consequences for tourism.
Maryam Mirzakhani, the first woman to win mathematics' Fields medal passes away.
She is the first woman and the first Iranian to be honored with the award, known for her work in the dynamics and geometry of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces. “Mirzakhani specialized in theoretical mathematics that read like a foreign language by those outside of mathematics: moduli spaces, Teichmüller theory, hyperbolic geometry, Ergodic theory and symplectic geometry,” Stanford press announcement.
Hot spots in the Gulf region and Arabian Peninsula are projected to endure heatwaves challenging human survival and adaptability if climate change is left unchecked.
A new synchrotron particle accelerator for the MENA is now open in Jordan; the Synchrotron light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East (SESAME). The Middle East’s first major international research centre for science application research.
Lake Urmia in Iran, once the second largest saltwater lake in the world, had dried out. Years of efforts to bring water back to Lake Urmia have eventually succeeded.
At the edge of the Sahara desert in Morocco under the scorching sun lies an important mega structure harnessing an abundant source of energy. One of the largest solar projects in the world is being built in phases with a potential to provide electricity to a million people .
Rabat – Over 100 energy officials united at the world’s largest solar power plant in Ouarzazate for the World Bank’s launching of the “Middle East and North Africa Concentrated Solar Power Knowledge & Innovation Program” (MENA CSP KIP), designed to support MENA officials exploring the potential of concentrated solar power (CSP) as a sustainable source for their countries’ energy demands.
The burden of diabetes has increased faster in low-income and middle-income countries than in high-income countries. Age- standardised adult diabetes prevalence in 2014 was lowest in northwestern Europe, and highest in Polynesia and Micronesia, at nearly 25%, followed by Melanesia and the Middle East and North Africa.