Frankincense Research and Conservation

Frankincense, also known as Luban, plays an integral part in the Omani heritage and culture and has been a main source of income for Dhofari communities for centuries. The species of frankincense native to Oman, Yemen and Northern Somalia is the Boswellia sacra, considered to produce a fine quality resin. Boswellia sacra is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Frankincense Tree
(Boswellia sacra)

Boswellia sacra faces a variety of threats, including overgrazing, resin overharvesting, insect attack, excessive mining, as well as more natural pressures from wind and flooding. Without intervention many of these threats are likely to intensify; grazing with increased camel populations, harvesting in response to increasing demand for frankincense, increases in insect attacks due to more vulnerable trees from the harvesting, etc and as they do, population declines will accelerate and intensify. Intervention to mitigate these threats is critical to ensuring the health and stability of Boswellia sacra populations in Dhofar.

ESO’s Frankincense Programme began in 2010.  The programme aims to:

Conduct health assessment and distribution studies of Boswellia sacra in Dhofar to support an updated population assessment.

Define the various threats to Boswellia sacra populations and their significance to inform targeted conservation actions.

Engage with relevant stakeholders to raise awareness and advocate for conservation actions at the local and government level.

Build local capacity to survey and protect the trees in the future.

Over the years ESO’s work has included research into the sustainable harvesting of frankincense trees, as well as research into seeding and flowering. More recently ESO undertook a rapid population and distribution assessment (results pending publication). Bi-lingual awareness infographics are freely available to consult showing methods of sustainable harvesting, best practices for planting and an overall introduction of frankincense trees (Resources).

The conservation of Boswellia sacra will continue to be a central focus for the work of ESO. Moving forward we will be working closely with the Environment Authority to recommend a variety of approaches to conserving these unique trees, including targeted research to further understand the population’s distribution and habitat and the social drivers of tree management.



Past sponsors:

To find out more about how to support this programme contact: