Forestry Research Presented at the Conference of the Israeli
Society of Ecology and Environmental Sciences
Twelve new studies in the field of forests and woodland were presented at the 38th annual conference of the Israeli Association of Ecology and Environmental Sciences (ISEES) that took place at the University of Ben Gurion. The research projects were presented at two sessions sponsored by the KKL-JNF.
The conference serves as a central stage for presenting research from leading scientific activities in Israel. Israeli experts in the fields of ecology together with environmental scientists participated in the conference, at which 250 research studies were presented in the course of 44 sessions. Dozens of other research projects were presented in an impressive poster exhibition. Two special plenum sessions included a lecture by Professor Uriel Safriel dedicated to the International Year of Biodiversity, and a panel discussion devoted to the future of the use of nuclear energy in Israel for producing electricity.
The research projects that were presented encompassed numerous areas of the environmental sciences: global changes and the climate crisis, air pollution, biodiversity, issues dealing with water, ocean ecology, urban and field ecology, environmental policy, energy, environmental economics, nature preservation, environmental education, planning, and environmental development.
Among the participants in the conference were Rubik Danilovic, Mayor of Be'er Sheva, Rivka Carmi, President of Ben Gurion University, Dr. Yossi Inbar, Head of the Ministry for Environmental Protection, and Yael Shaaltieli, KKL-JNF General Manager. The conference marked the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the association, which was celebrated in a festive event attended by its former presidents. The event included dinner followed by a performance by the African Hebrew Israelite from Dimona.
One of the sessions sponsored by KKL-JNF dealt with the functions and dynamics of forests and woodland. David Brand, Head Forester of KKL-JNF, presented research projects that dealt with the development of methods for controlling forest pests, resistance to drought, loss of water in arid forests, and rehabilitation of polluted soil using forest trees.
The second session focused on coping with disturbances in forests and woodlands, and was headed by Dr. Yossi Royuv. During the session studies were presented that dealt with forest renovation, changes in the varieties of trees following fires, and the influence of evergreen trees on the diversity of grassy plants.
David Brand remarked about the conference. "KKL-JNF invests more than five million NIS each year to support research that deals with forestation, soil, water, and management of open areas. Without KKL-JNF's professional staff who are closely familiar with the area and its various phenomena, we would not be able to conduct this research. The cooperation with the academic world is doubly beneficial – since it provides both scientific background for our work and applicable tools for proper management."
Brand pointed out one example of such research. "After eucalyptus trees began suffering from damage caused by a certain species of wasp, we approached Professor Tzvika Mandel from the Vulcani Institute and asked him to help us find a solution. It became evident that the wasps have a natural enemy – a different variety of parasitic wasp that exists in Australia – that could help us eradicate the pest. We were able to locate these wasps and find a clean, efficient solution to the problem. Today people from all over the world are asking us for help in obtaining these wasps. We have provided them to people in Thailand, South Africa, India, and other countries. This is one example of cooperation between the field and the academia that benefits both sides."
The following are some of the research projects in the area of forests and woodland that were presented during the conference:
• Professor Tzvika Mandel from the entomology department of the Vulcani Institute presented a lecture on biological control of forest pests in Israel, while preserving and encouraging natural enemies of the pine processionary caterpillar (Thaumetopoea Pityocampa).
• A team from the Vulcani Center at Beit Degan examined the influence of pre-planting activities of the KKL-JNF upon renovation of vegetation following forest fires. Pine trees in some of the areas in the Biriya Forest that were burned during the Second Lebanon War were cut down, and broad-leafed indigenous trees were planted in their place. These activities are compatible with attempts to increase the varieties of trees in the forests, and similar activities are expected to be employed in the future in additional areas following forest fires. The area was plowed using a method that alternated between plowed and unplowed strips and holes were dug for planting.
The objective of the research was to assess the influence of these pre-planting activities upon the renewal of vegetation. The results showed that in the first spring after the fire there was significantly denser germination of pine trees in the unplowed strips compared to the plowed strips and the planting ridges. This trend continued three years after the fire, while the gap between the density of germination in the plowed and unplowed areas decreased. No difference was found in the variety of vegetation in the plowed and unplowed strips. The lecture was given by Nurit Huebsher.
• A study conducted at the University of Haifa that was presented by Naama Tessler examined the influence of single fires and repeated fires upon vegetation, the variety of species, and plant coverage. The study showed that areas where fires had occurred repeatedly had a richer variety of vegetation.
• A joint team of researchers from the University of Tel Aviv, the Vulcani Institute, and La Coronia University in Spain discovered that distributing synthetic polymer grains of the Polyacrylamide type can help to promote rapid rehabilitation of indigenous vegetation in burnt areas. Forest fires increase soil erosion, since the soil is exposed with no vegetation and dust particles prevent water from penetrating. The research results reveal that scattering polymer on the soil decreases erosion by increasing the adhesion of runoff water and stabilizing the structure of the upper layer of the soil. The study was presented by Asaf Inbar.
• Oded Cohen presented a study conducted by the Faculty of Agriculture at the Hebrew University and Ben Gurion University. This study demonstrated that the blue-leafed wattle (Acacia Saligna) - one of the predominant invading species in Israel - can be controlled using water-based solutions and surfactants to increase the permeation of weed killers into the plant tissues. These materials are less expensive and friendlier to the environment than diesel-oil-based weed killers that are sometimes used. A method of controlling the blue-leafed wattle using solar sterilization and burning to eradicate the seeds of the blue-leafed wattle was also presented.
• Efrat Shefer presented a study conducted by a team from the Faculty of Agriculture that examined the spread of Jerusalem pine trees into woodland areas in the north and south of the country. The team found that the phenomenon exists, but that the trees are spreading at a moderate rate. A team from the Weizman Institute and Vulcani Institute studied the survival mechanism of the Jerusalem pine during periods of drought, while examining the role of the physiological structure of various plant parts in hydraulic control.
• A group of researchers from the Vulcani Center found that the
river red gum tree (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) can be used to help treat
soils that have been polluted by heavy metals. The trees stabilize the
soil and prevent the spread of pollutants as well as absorb metals and
dissolve them. The lecture was presented by Dr. Pinchas Fine.
• Since the United Nations has declared 2010 as International Year
of Biodiversity, one of the main topics addressed at the conference was
biodiversity. The year's theme is intended to recognize that Man's
existence and welfare depend upon the existence of a variety of life
forms on Earth and upon phenomenon that the ecological systems provide.
• Among the topics that were presented at the conference pertaining
to biodiversity were preservation of biodiversity in agricultural
areas, the connection between the richness of species and the
efficiency of biological control in various agricultural systems, and
the influence of gnawing by wild pigs upon grassy plants, and changes
in the biodiversity in dune areas.
The conference was marked by two days of presenting fascinating
research studies and lectures. At the conclusion of the conference a
ceremony was held in which prizes were awarded for excellent lectures
and posters. The participants parted in hopes that the new research
projects will contribute to enriching knowledge and promoting issues of
ecology and the environment.
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