The Saudi Environment Ministry has launched a program incorporating remote sensing technologies and artificial intelligence to study the status of vegetative cover and contribute to the goals of afforestation projects and the “Green Saudi” initiative.
This effort aims to combat desertification, which stands as one of the most significant geological challenges in the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia, classified as an arid country, is severely impacted by the increasing effects of desertification. Most parts of the country show signs of desertification, evident from the transformation of fertile agricultural regions and water-rich valleys into barren lands.
Experts suggest that factors leading to desertification include scarce rainfall, overexploitation of water resources, and the migration of farmers from villages to cities. This shift results in the degradation of productive lands and magnifies the impact of desertification in affected regions.
To counteract environmental desertification, Saudi Arabia has embarked on several major initiatives aimed at bolstering the Kingdom’s vegetative cover.
Foremost among these is the “Green Saudi” initiative, aiming to plant 10 billion trees across the country, covering 40 million hectares.
The “National Center for the Development of Vegetative Cover and Combating Desertification” in Saudi Arabia employs modern technologies and research to bolster its objectives.
Researchers at the center study the genetic origins of plants in Saudi Arabia, mapping their genomes to understand their adaptability in various environments and their resilience against different pressures, whether climatic or biological.
This research aims to identify the best solutions for preserving these plants, ensuring their proliferation, and cultivating them in line with the objectives of the “Green Saudi” initiative.
Dr. Khaled Al-Abd Al-Qader, the Executive Director of the Center, explained that these technologies target monitoring changes in vegetative cover at afforestation project sites, tracking ground cover alterations, calculating rainfall amounts, measuring vegetative cover density, and monitoring plant health.
Al-Qader pointed out that artificial intelligence and remote sensing technologies play a pivotal role in observing and tracking mangrove forests along the Saudi coasts, overseeing afforestation efforts and irrigation using drones, counting trees, calculating progress rates, and monitoring the movement of sand dunes and their impact on the vegetative cover.