Human and Natural Threats to Biodiversity

Elements of biodiversity in the Kingdom of Bahrain are constantly under pressures resulting from human activities as well as some natural threats. Among them are:

Urban Expansion

The limited land area in the Kingdom of Bahrain is one of the most driving motives of urban expansion, which, in turn, represents the most direct threat to biodiversity. Since the discovery of oil in the 1930s, which led to a steady economic and urban boom and a remarkable increase in population due to the influx of foreign workers, the pace of urban expansion has accelerated to meet the growing demand for land by various development sectors. This resulted in a significant expansion in the area of the Kingdom of Bahrain's landmass area which went up from 663 km2 in 1964 to 758 km 2 in 2009.

Undoubtedly, this trend has negative impacts on the biodiversity elements. On land, residential, commercial and industrial areas have expanded towards the desert and agricultural environments. Similarly, the coastal region has been subjected to reclamation operations to meet the needs of the population, industrial, tourism, trade and the service sectors for land. Furthermore, the bulldozing activities in some water-covered areas have been implemented to provide suitable coarse sand for construction operations, as well as the sand used in reclamation and both are rare on land.

Groundwater Depletion

Due to the lack of surface water resources, Bahrain relies heavily on groundwater to meet its needs in this regard. Water is withdrawn from regional groundwater reservoirs, which extend beneath the Kingdom of Bahrain and some neighboring countries. The acceleration of the construction boom in the Arabian Gulf states has resulted in changing the pattern of consumer behavior in the Gulf societies and subsequently bypassing the demand for groundwater, in a way that exceeds the natural regeneration rates. This led to the sharp depletion of aquifers. Agricultural activities, which are based on the traditional irrigation system, have used between 64.44 and 69.57% of groundwater produced between 2003 and 2006 in the Kingdom of Bahrain.

The low water table has led to severe repercussions on inland water environments. Also, the pollution of the water table with sea water resulted in salinity of the soil, which has reflected negatively on agricultural environments.

Overfishing and By-catch

The fishing industry is among main sectors in Bahrain because of its historical, cultural and economic importance as well as its contributions to enhancing food security. As a result, the number of fishermen has increased significantly over the past years to reach about 6,816 in 2008, with 5,562 ones (82%) among them are non-Bahraini. In addition to professional fishermen, a large number of amateur fishermen are engaged in fishing profession in different times of the year. Similarly, the number fishing vessels has increased steadily, reaching approximately 1,169 in 2008. They included 108 dhows (banoosh), 256 shrimping dhows (banoosh), 690 small fishing boats and 115 shrimping boats.

In addition to the increasing number of professional and amateur fishermen, the non-commitment of some fishermen to the fishing ban periods adds another burden on the fishery resources, and contributes to the depletion of the fishing resources. In addition, by-catch and the use of some banned fishing equipment (such as the nylon and three-layer nets) have been inflicted further damage to non-targeted marine species.

Environmental Pollution

Solid, liquid and gaseous industrial waste is one of the key factors affecting biodiversity, especially the marine one. 53 outfalls from the refining, petrochemicals, iron, power, desalination and sewage treatment plants are located along the eastern coastline of the kingdom, and discharge their wastewater into the marine environment after undergoing treatment processes. Moreover, the Arabian Gulf is suffering from repeated incidents of oil pollution due to the large number of oil tankers, oil refineries and oil production platforms, as well as the numerous wars that have occurred in the region over the last thirty years. Other than that, oil spots target Bahrain’s coasts from time to time, which may cause severe damage to the coastal environment. For example, in 2003, an oil spot hit the coast of the island of Muharraq, In 2010, an oil spill incident occurred and damaged the coast of the Sitra island.

Invasive Alien Species

Invasive alien species are considered the most serious threats to biodiversity, as some of them inflict serious damage to agriculture and fisheries. They can be harmful to human health, as well. As Bahrain is one of the leading regional and international commercial and tourist centers, the flow of trade and tourism increases the access of alien species to the Bahraini environment. These types find their way to the Bahraini Islands through ballast water discharged by thousands of supertankers that cross the Arabian Gulf. It seems that the numbers of those alien species is on the rise, and their environmental, economic and health effects have become more evident over the past years. In addition, stray cats and dogs have also clearly increased over the past decade, which resulted in some local animal species being devoured.

Camping and Hiking

Many citizens camp the desert Sakhir area during the spring. Some campers tend to bulldoze soil and its organisms before putting up their tents. Some of them also tend to uproot some wild plants to use them for burning and wood gathering operations. As well as that, some campers use vehicles, especially four-wheel cars, to move and entertain themselves in the unpaved streets unpaved, which harms wild plants and surface soil.