Muscat – Environment Society of Oman (ESO) and Oman Shell recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to support and promote the research and conservation of wild frankincense tree populations in Oman.
These Boswellia sacra trees produce the finest frankincense gum resin valued worldwide for its medicinal properties and used as a source of incense and perfumery. For thousands of years, these unique trees have played an essential role in Oman’s biodiversity, cultural heritage, traditions and economy. This species witnesses human induced environmental pressures in some parts of its range in Dhofar.
The partnership between ESO and Oman Shell aims to support the monitoring and surveying of frankincense tree populations at key sites across Oman. ESO will also work closely with national and local entities to raise awareness among communities about the tree’s ecological value and the threats it faces, such as over-harvesting and habitat loss, while sharing best and low-impact harvesting practices. Another aim of the partnership is to improve the national capacity to monitor and manage frankincense trees and their habitats.
Suaad al Harthi, Executive Director of ESO, said, “Frankincense has been an integral part of Oman’s environmental, cultural and economic identity for centuries. Frankincense is recognised for its unique trade that flourished in this region as one of the most important trading activities of the ancient world. To this day, it remains a sought-after commodity for its cosmetic and health values.”
She added, “Yet, there is a growing tree conservation concern due to several complicating factors. Therefore, we would like to thank Oman Shell, who, through this collaboration, enables us and other concerned entities to study, monitor and manage the frankincense tree populations. We will also reach out to local communities to highlight the tree’s ecological value and the importance of sustainable harvesting practices and conservation techniques. This project will allow us all to become more efficient and innovative in protecting these sacred tree populations and their habitats.”
Malak al Sheibani, General Manager of Corporate Relations at Oman Shell, said, “At Shell, we are convinced that environmental awareness and education can result in environmental conservation and more sustainable practices. We believe that there is a lot we can do at the community level, so we are taking part in several national and grassroots initiatives aiming to make a real difference. We are thrilled to be part of this project with ESO and support it in protecting this tree species that is a unique part of our beautiful and biodiverse country.”
Despite recognition of their significance, frankincense trees face many threats, including overgrazing, overharvesting, insect attacks, habitat loss and increasingly extreme weather conditions linked to climate change which could negatively impact their growth.