|Biome||deserts and xeric shrublands|
|Area||1,855,470 km2 (716,400 sq mi)|
The Arabian Desert (Arabic: ?) is a vast desert wilderness in Western Asia. It stretches from Yemen to the Persian Gulf and Oman to Jordan and Iraq. It occupies most of the Arabian Peninsula, with an area of 2,330,000 square kilometers (900,000 sq mi). It is the fifth largest desert in the world, and the largest in Asia. At its center is Ar-Rub'al-Khali (The Empty Quarter), one of the largest continuous bodies of sand in the world.
Gazelles, oryx, sand cats, and spiny-tailed lizards are just some of the desert-adapted species that survive in this extreme environment, which features everything from red dunes to deadly quicksand. The climate is mostly dry (the major part receives around 100 mm (3.9 in) of rain per year but some very rare places receive as little as 50 mm), and temperatures oscillate between very high heat and seasonal night time freezes. It is part of the deserts and xeric shrublands biome and the Palearctic realm.
The Arabian desert ecoregion holds little biodiversity, although a few endemic plants grow here. Many species, such as the striped hyena, jackal and honey badger have become extirpated due to hunting, human encroachment and habitat destruction. Other species have been successfully re-introduced, such as the Arabian sand gazelle, and are protected at a number of reserves. Overgrazing by livestock, off-road driving, and human destruction of habitat are the main threats to this desert ecoregion.
The desert lies mostly in Saudi Arabia, and covers most of the country. It extends into neighboring portions of southern Iraq, southern Jordan, central Qatar, most of the Abu Dhabi emirate in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), western Oman, and northeastern Yemen. The ecoregion also includes most of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt and the adjacent Negev desert in southern Israel.
The Arabian Desert has a subtropical, hot desert climate, similar to the climate of the Sahara Desert; the world's largest hot desert. The Arabian Desert is actually an extension of the Sahara Desert over the Arabian peninsula. The climate is mainly hot and dry with plenty of sunshine throughout the year. The rainfall amount is generally around 100 mm (3.9 in), and the driest areas can receive between 30 and 40 mm (1.6 in) of annual rain. Such dryness remains rare throughout the desert, however. There are few hyper arid areas in the Arabian Desert, in contrast with the Sahara Desert, where more than half of the area is hyper arid (annual rainfall below 50 mm (2.0 in)). The sunshine duration in the Arabian Desert is very high by global standards, between 2,900 hours (66.2% of daylight hours) and 3,600 hours (82.1% of daylight hours), but it is typically around 3,400 hours (77.6% of daylight hours), thus clear-sky conditions prevail over the region and cloudy periods are intermittent. Even though the sun and moon are bright, dust and humidity cause lower visibility at ground level. The temperatures remain high all year round. Average high temperatures in summer are generally over 40 °C (104 °F) at low elevations, and can even soar to 48 °C (118 °F) at extremely low elevations, especially along the Persian Gulf near sea level. Average low temperatures in summer remain high, over 20 °C (68 °F) and sometimes over 30 °C (86 °F) in the southernmost regions. Record high temperatures are above 50 °C (122 °F) in much of the desert, due in part to very low elevation.
The Arabian Desert ecoregion has about 900 species of plants.
The Rub'al-Khali has very limited floristic diversity. There are only 37 plant species, 20 recorded in the main body of the sands and 17 around the outer margins. Of these 37 species, one or two are endemic. Vegetation is very diffuse but fairly evenly distributed, with some interruptions of near sterile dunes. Some typical plants are Calligonum crinitum on dune slopes, Cornulaca arabica (saltbush), Salsola stocksii (saltbush), and Cyperus conglomeratus. Other widespread species are Dipterygium glaucum, Limeum arabicum, and Zygophyllum mandavillei. Very few trees are found except at the outer margin (typically Acacia ehrenbergiana and Prosopis cineraria). Other species are a woody perennial Calligonum comosum, and annual herbs such as Danthonia forskallii.
The Arabian Desert has 102 native species of mammals. Native mammals include the Arabian oryx (Oryx leucoryx), sand gazelle (Gazella marica), mountain gazelle (G. gazella), Nubian ibex (Capra nubiana), Arabian wolf (Canis lupus arabs), striped hyaena (Hyaena hyaena), caracal (Caracal caracal), sand cat (Felis margarita), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), and Cape hare (Lepus capensis).
The ecoregion is home to 310 bird species.
In the center of the desert lies Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, with more than 7 million inhabitants. Other large cities, such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi, or Kuwait City, lie on the coast of the Persian Gulf.
Threats to the ecoregion include overgrazing by livestock and feral camels and goats, wildlife poaching, and damage to vegetation by off-road driving.
4.23% of the ecoregion is in protected areas.
Saudi Arabia has established a system of reserves overseen by the National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development (NCWCD).
Protected areas in the United Arab Emirates include Al Houbara Protected Area (2492.0 km2), Al Ghadha Protected Area (1087.51 km2), Arabian Oryx Protected Area (5974.47 km2), Ramlah Protected Area (544.44 km2), and Al Beda'a Protected Area (417.0 km2).