‘Living Skin of the Desert’ and the Environment

‘Living Skin of the Desert’ and the Environment

The MENA region is made at 90% of arid lands with harsh climate. Arable lands have since time immemorial been receding before a desertification that is increasingly visual despite the commendable efforts to contain it and or even through operations such as Greening the world’s deserts.  This gives a particular view on the engaged fight against desertification notably through turning desert lands into fertile productive agricultural lands. Such operations do apparently have ways unknown till now of affecting this ‘Living Skin of the Desert’ and the Environment.
Meanwhile, desertification is a worldwide phenomenon afflicting countries all over the world according to ecoMENA  and the desert is making a comeback in the Middle East, with fertile lands turning into barren wastes. According to United Nation’s Development Program’s 2009 Arab Human Development Report, desertification is threatening around one-fifth of the MENA region.
The proposed WEF article written by Daniel Stolte, Science Writer, University of Arizona and published in April 2017 brings in yet another aspect of the desert morphology that is to definitely be taken into account. Although this has empirically been known to all indigenous populations, it lacked, like many other things any scientific substantiation. At the same time, rain making on demand through cloud seeding in the UAE’s Dubai, is held as an achievement that should be encouraged for a better and green future.

The ‘living skin of the desert’ helps protect the environment. Now it needs our protection

Arid and semiarid ecosystems are expected to experience significant changes in temperature and precipitation patterns, which may affect soil organisms.  Image: REUTERS/Stringer

This article is published in collaboration with Futurity

Scientists have discovered that the desert’s biocrust plays a previously unknown role in regulating the arid climate.

This “living skin of the desert” goes by different names. You may have seen signs in parks and protected areas advising you not to step on “cryptobiotic soil,” or read about “biocrusts.” Each refers to the same thing: a community of mosses, lichens, and sometimes cyanobacteria in various proportions that is critical to human and ecosystem health and climate in the Southwest and other dryland areas.

Biocrusts have many benefits, not only to drylands but also to human health, explains study leader Austin Rutherford, a doctoral student in the University of Arizona’s School of Natural Resources and the Environment.

“They stabilize the soil against erosion, and they reduce the occurrence and impact of dust storms, which are a human health issue, as airborne particles can affect people suffering from asthma and other respiratory problems,” he says. “And now that we are finding that we are losing some of these organisms that make up that soil surface to climate change, we have reason to believe that the loss may have drastic consequences for future climate.”

Arid and semiarid ecosystems are expected to experience significant changes in temperature and precipitation patterns, which may affect soil organisms in ways that cause surfaces to become lighter in color and thus reflect more sunlight, according to the new study, published in the journal Scientific Reports.

This change will bounce more energy back into the atmosphere, which, considering that drylands make up more than 40 percent of the Earth’s land surface, can alter global climate.

“The discovery that climate-change impacts on biocrusts could feedback to future climate is a critical factor that hasn’t been considered in the past,” says Rutherford, who did much of the data collection on this project while working for the US Geological Survey. “This information is an important step in understanding dryland climate, and may be helpful in developing future global climate models.”

Measuring ‘albedo’

Rutherford and his coworkers created outdoor testing plots located on the Colorado Plateau, where large squares of biocrusts were exposed to different warming and precipitation factors over time.

The researchers not only looked at how the biocrusts responded, but also measured the amount of energy that the different biocrust communities reflected back into the atmosphere relative to how much energy came in from the sun. This effect is known as albedo.

The study is the first to quantify the albedo on a small scale in the context of other characteristics such as biocrust cover, soil moisture, and the roughness of the soil cover.

“Unlike previous studies that examine large expansive areas using remote sensing data,” Rutherford explains, “we brought it down to the small scale and studied the finer processes that might be influencing the change in albedo.”

Warming and watering treatments had large impacts on biocrust communities, transforming them from the dark to light-colored communities, and causing energy that previously was absorbed by the dark surfaces to reflect back into the atmosphere. These factors led to large increases in albedo and may represent a previously unidentified effect on future climate by slowing how fast the Earth warms.

Watch your step

The replacement of biocrust mosses and lichens with light-colored cyanobacteria also may result in increased soil erosion, decreased soil fertility, and decreased removal of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the air.

“You can make the claim that because in drylands we have more energy input from the sun and fewer cloudy days, even a slight change in albedo might have a much larger impact on the global energy balance than, say, a boreal forest or a temperate forest,” Rutherford says.

Many human activities can be unintentionally harmful to biological crusts. The biocrusts are no match for the compressional stress caused by footprints of livestock or people or the tracks from vehicles.

“Our study shows that effects of human activity may not only alter soil stability and fertility, but also the way energy is exchanged between the planet and its atmosphere,” Rutherford says.

Source: University of Arizona and the US Geological Survey

Original Study DOI: 10.1038/srep44188


Hike in Intellectual Property Fees in GCC

Hike in Intellectual Property Fees in GCC

Would the following Hike in Intellectual Property Fees in GCC story have anything to do with the fall in the price of oil and gas or as put forward here due to GCC’s new internal as well as interstates coordination ?  This article written by a team of BQ discussing with Katie Montazeri, partner at DLA Piper Middle East LLP who expertised the trend in the domain was published on October 23, 2016. It clearly shows that there is indeed some sort of inverted proportionality relationship between the two segments of these countries’ economies.

Hike in IP fees in GCC – who’s gaining?

As the fees for protecting one’s brand rises, small businesses opting for non-registration of trademarks could face risk from unscrupulous competitors

Intellectual property fees spiked recently all across the GCC, in some countries as much as 6,200 percent, making the registration of patents, trademarks or design among the most expensive in the world.

In the last couple of months Bahrain and Kuwait raised their intellectual property fees more than just significantly, while Saudi Arabia and the UAE did the same last year. According to the local media reports, in Kuwait, the official cost for registering a trademark is due to increase this year from the USD 25 to USD 1,586, while in Bahrain registration fees will be raised by 728 percent from USD 160 to USD 1,325.

In Saudi Arabia, since last year fees for renewing trademarks jumped from USD 80 to USD 800. Last March, in the UAE the same fee has gone up by 99.9 percent and now is USD 2,725.

katie-montazeriExplaining the consequences of those decisions, Katie Montazeri, partner at DLA Piper Middle East LLP, says that last year’s unexpected 100 percent rise in many of the official fees charged by the UAE trademark office meant that the UAE was now among the most expensive countries in the world in terms of filing a national trademark application. DLA Piper is a global law firm with lawyers located in more than 30 countries throughout the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific.


“The impact is particularly significant because the UAE also has a monoclass system, meaning that a separate application must be filed (and paid for) in each relevant class. Not surprisingly, it appears that the fee increase has led to a decrease in the number of trademark filings received per month by the office. In my experience, businesses are continuing to file trademark applications in the UAE, but they are taking a more conservative approach to the number of classes to be covered. It remains to be seen whether this will have an impact on enforcement in the longer term,” stated Montazeri.

The Qatari office of Abu Ghazaleh Intellectual Property (AGIP) had something similar to say. “The number of applications that will be filed at the trademark offices in each country of the GCC will be reduced,” their Doha-based agents said and added that small businesses, law firms and ministries of trade will be the most affected by such high fees for intellectual property registration and renewal.

According to Montazeri, many international brand owners would simply absorb the additional filing and renewal fees as the cost of doing business in the region. “For them, the need for brand protection is greater than the deterrent effect of high costs. SMEs are most likely to find the increases prohibitive and may defer registration or even decide that trademark registration is not affordable, potentially placing their brands at risk,” he said.

“Interestingly, the IPO (intellectual property owners) in the European Union recently reduced their fees as a means of making the EUTM (European Union Trading Mission) more attractive to SMEs. It would benefit SMEs in the GCC if a discounted rate would apply for applicants whose turnover or number of employees (for example) falls below a certain threshold. This would also help to support national initiatives to encourage inventors and innovators in line with the UAE’s emphasis on innovation and the knowledge economy,” Montazeri added.

Others will follow

In Qatar, according to the web pages of Ministry of Economy and Commerce, a total fee of QR 1,000 (USD 274) should be paid upon submission of the application and another fee amounting to QR 325 (USD 89) is collected after the application is accepted and the registration of trademark is announced in the official gazette.

If a four-month period starting from the date of publication, elapses without an objection being raised, a trademark registration certificate is granted upon payment of a total of QR 2,025 (USD 556). So the total cost of trademark registration in Qatar would be QR 3,350 (USD 920), which is, at least for now, less than in Kuwait or Bahrain. The trademark certificate is valid within Qatar for 10 years from the issuance date and can be renewed for another 10 years.


But, Montazeri feels the remaining GCC member states (Oman and Qatar), too might follow the example of their neighbors, in preparation for the introduction of long-awaited unified GCC trademark law. “There have been corresponding increases in the fees charged by the trademark offices in both Kuwait and KSA, and it seems likely that other GCC countries will follow suit. Some commentators have suggested that the increase in fees is linked to the introduction of the unified GCC trademark law and the need to fund improved technology such as publicly accessible IP (intellectual property) databases,” she told BQ.

“If so, then the longer-term effect on the GCC economies is likely to be positive because digitalization and ease of search facilities is an area where the GCC is less sophisticated than other regions and businesses would benefit from more advanced filing and search technology. However, the short-term impact of these increases (particularly on SMEs) combined with the monoclass system, which requires multiple filings, is significant. It will be interesting to assess what (if any) impact the increases have on the UAE trademark office’s revenue and on the number of filings from businesses within and outside the UAE,” Montazeri added.

Read more in the original document at the above mentioned address