EPPO Global Database

EPPO Reporting Service no. 04 - 2016 Num. article: 2016/089

Impacts of invasive alien plants in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia contains a variety of ecosystems ranging from high altitude mountains (up to 3050 m asl), valleys, meadows, salt pans, deep sands, lava areas and drainage canals. Invasive alien plants have a profound impact on both natural ecosystems and agricultural regions in Saudi Arabia, reducing crop yields and displacing native plant species. In the present study, over 1 000 stands from 10 major habitats in four regions in Saudi Arabia were surveyed for preliminary observations on the impact of invasive alien plants. Species were identified along with an estimate of their cover. In total, 48 exotic plant species were identified during this study, with 6 species (see table below) being identified as major invaders. Prosopis juliflora was identified as the most prominent invasive alien plant in lowland habitats. Interestingly, P. juliflora has been prioritised as a species with a high priority for a PRA under the LIFE project: Mitigating the threat of invasive alien plants in the EU through pest risk analysis to support the EU Regulation 1145/2014. In Saudi Arabia, mountain and river ecosystems have the highest value in terms of endemic biological diversity but it is these habitats that have the highest cover of alien invasive plants. Careful management of invasive populations coupled with biosecurity measures are needed to mitigate the current and potential future impacts of invasive alien plants in Saudi Arabia.

Table. Six major invasive alien plant species in Saudi Arabia
Argemone ochroleuca
Herbaceous annual
C - America
Nicotiana glauca
Perennial tree/bush
S - America
Opuntia stricta var. dillenii
Herbaceous perennial
N & S America
Opuntia ficus-indica
Herbaceous perennial
N America
Prosopis juliflora
Perennial tree/bush
N & S America
Trianthema portulacastrum 
Herbaceous perennial
C & S America/ Africa


Thomas J, El-Sheikh MA, Alfarhan AH, Alater AA, Sivadasan M, Basahi M, Al-Obaid S (2016) Impact of alien invasive species on habitats and species richness in Saudi Arabia. Journal of Arid Environments 127, 53-65.