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Ecoregion Description

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Species Richness

# of Endemic Species


435: Sinai

Major Habitat Type:

xeric freshwaters and endorheic (closed) basins


Brian Coad


Egypt; Israel


The Sinai Peninsula of Egypt is a land bridge between Southwest Asia and Africa. It is bounded by the Jordan River [438] and Coastal Levant [436] ecoregions to the east; Mediterranean Sea to the north; Suez Canal system to the west; and the Red Sea and its arms, the gulfs of Suez and Aqaba, to the south.

Drainages flowing into:

Red Sea and its arms, the gulfs of Suez and Aqaba to the south, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north.

Main rivers or other water bodies:

There are no major rivers; however, various wadis drain the mountains and springs, forming small oases across the peninsula. The Wadi el Arish, one of the largest, receives flash floodwater from north and central Sinai. The Bardawil Lagoon on the northern coast has high salinities and is not a freshwater habitat, but does support a marine fish fauna. Solar Lake on the Gulf of Eilat is a small, fishless pond with deep brines at 54 ºC.


The ecoregion is mountainous in the south with a narrow coastal plain. Elevations rise to 2637 m around Mount St. Catherine, the highest mountain in Egypt. Nearby is Mount Sinai at 2285 m. This area is comprised of acid plutonic and volcanic rocks belonging to the Precambrian basement complex of the southern part of the Sinai Peninsula (El-Raouf et al. 1996). Elevations decline northward across the El-Tih Plateau, becoming lower with a wider coastal plain in the north where coastal lagoons develop.


The Sinai falls within the warm desert climate zone, with mean annual precipitation less than 44 mm. The mean annual temperature is 19  ºC, and then mean minimum and maximum is  6 ºC and 32 ºC, respectively.

Freshwater habitats:

Wadis are subject to flash floods after rainstorms. There has been very little exploration for fishes in these freshwater habitats.

Terrestrial Habitats:

The Sinai is almost entirely rock desert in the center and east and sand desert in the north and southwest, with limited vegetation. There is some coastal irrigation in a narrow strip in the north.

Fish Fauna:

The ecoregion’s fish fauna is depauperate. Only one fish species, Aphanius dispar, has been tentatively recorded in the ecoregion. It is euryhaline and can enter fresh waters. There are no true freshwater fishes present, but possibly the lower reaches of wadis, if reaching the sea, may harbor some euryhaline species such as gobies.

Description of endemic fishes:

There are no known endemics.

Other noteworthy fishes:

The diversity of Palearctic invertebrate species at their southern range limit is relatively high in wadis and springs (Por and Dimentman 1989).

Justification for delineation:

This ecoregion occupies an area apparently devoid of fishes between the richer areas of the Levant and Nile River basins.

Level of taxonomic exploration:



Inbar, R. (1977). "The Land of Sinai" Haifa: Natib Hasefer.

Por, F. D.,Dimentman, C. (1989). "The Legacy of Tethys: an aquatic biogeography of the Levant" 63 Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

The Nature Conservancy World Wildlife Fund
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