The proportion of Saudi Arabia’s land area covered by forest has remained unchanged since 1990 at about 0.5%. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who aims to transform the petrostate’s economy and society, announced in late March a plan to plant 10 billion trees over the coming decades to increase by twelvefold the area covered by existing trees.
“The kingdom is determined to make a lasting global impact,” he declared.
However, large-scale projects modifying the natural environment should be done carefully, as human actions can ripple through the entire fragile desert ecosystem of Saudi Arabia. For example, change in local precipitations and soils can affect indigenous species of plants and animals.
China’s greening of a third of its Kubuqi Desert, which Saudi Arabia has studied, provides a model for restoring recently degraded land. Prince Mohammed’s plan appears to aim at restoring degraded lands but also to plant in areas previously not covered by trees.