A one-day research conference of KKL-JNF's Land Development Authority, including a ceremony for grant awards from the René Karshon Foundation, took place at the Volcani Institute of Agricultural Research in Beit Dagan, with the participation of KKL-JNF directors and specialists in the fields of forestry, climate, water, grazing and planning. A variety of studies in which KKL JNF is involved, in the fields of agriculture, forestry, water and recreation, were presented.
“Without the research studies led by KKL-JNF since the 1940s, it could not have been said today that Israel is a leading agricultural exporter,” said KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler.
David Brand, KKL-JNF Chief Forester, who chaired the first session of the conference, expressed his certainty that the diverse studies would offer responses to the challenges KKL-JNF is dealing with in the management of open spaces.
Yuval Ashdot, Chief Scientist at the Ministry of Agriculture, related to climate changes and their effect on the structure of the land and the environment. He explained that climate changes have a great influence on the forest – aridity causes fires, the development of new pests, transformation of forest areas into brush areas, proliferation of invader species, harm to concentrations of heat-sensitive flora, and a decrease in the survival of young plants. He spoke about a joint venture of KKL-JNF and the Ministry of Agriculture for researching the effect of climate changes on forests, with a budget of two million shekels.
Gershon Avni, Director of KKL-JNF's Land Development Authority, noted that KKL JNF is facing many challenges in the fields of land, water, recreation, international relations and the other areas of its work. “All of these obligate us to encourage in-depth research and invest in the various fields of knowledge.”
Yael Shaltieli, KKL JNF Director General, spoke about the contribution to the environment and to the quality of life made by KKL JNF over the years. “In the past, KKL JNF was blamed for planting ‘pine deserts’, but now,” said Shaltieli, “everyone understands that KKL JNF works with nature and not against it.” She emphasized the agricultural benefits of forests, such as provision of grazing areas for bees and shelter for natural enemies of harmful elements. “The forests are not only thriving on the hills but have also been planted in the hearts of the people of Israel,” said the Director General.
She devoted some of her words to the importance of scientific research. “Throughout the world, the people at KKL JNF present the knowledge we have amassed in combating desertification. During the Carmel fire, the forestry research and interface helped us in protecting the forests. The results of assorted studies will ensure thriving and vital forests, which will assist us in the challenges ahead.”
First Session: Climate Change and Water Sensitive Cities
After the opening greetings, the first session began with a presentation by Professor Pinhas Alpert from Tel Aviv University on models and forecasts for climate change in the Mediterranean basin. He posed the question, “Are we drying up?” and described climate change simulations in the water balance above the Mediterranean basin. He presented a bleak prognosis regarding the further desiccation of the country and a decrease in precipitation quantities, but he concluded on an optimistic note and said, “I hope my predictions will be proven wrong.”
Professor Tony Wong from Monash University in Melbourne, presented the topic of water sensitive cities. He said that Australia has been undergoing several years of continuous drought. “The only certain thing with regard to the effects of climate change on rainfall is that we can look forward to further uncertainty,” he said. He said that the goal is to develop endurance in the face of climate change. He explained that this can be advanced by avoiding dependence on a single water source, and by the containment and storage of runoff in years blessed with rain. “In Australia, cities are now seen as a source for harvesting water,” said Prof. Wong. He said that cities produce a great deal of effluents, and these effluents should be recycled again and again. “The possibility of using the treated effluents for flushing toilets, and only later for recycling again for agricultural use, should be investigated. Cities are also a good source for runoff, which may be harvested and utilized.”
In various places in Australia, different treatments of water according to their different uses are being studied – potable water, garden irrigation, agricultural irrigation, flushing, showering. For this, it is necessary, of course, to store water, and one of the ways to do this is by channeling the water into the aquifer, “which is the greatest reservoir and also does not suffer from evaporation,” said Prof. Wong.
After several years of drought, Australia has suddenly been undergoing a year of severe flooding. In addition to the floods there have been heat waves and even fires that have been erupting consequent to the extreme conditions. Measurements taken in Melbourne showed that the temperatures in the eastern parts of the city, which have many parks, is around four degrees lower than in the western part of the city, which has no parks. This is additional proof of the importance of green areas in cities. “It is clearly no simple challenge to keep a city green in an arid Mediterranean climate and in times of water scarcity,” said Prof. Wong.
In conclusion, Prof. Wong described a program of applied research for development of water sensitive cities in Israel, which was launched the day before with the cooperation of KKL JNF Israel, KKL JNF Australia and Monash University. The research includes characterization of the water system, urban planning, technological development for water treatment and channels for assimilation, in conjunction with policy makers.
Second Session: Outstanding Students
The second session was chaired by Professor Zvi Mandel from the Agricultural Research Organization at the Volcani Institute. He opened with a eulogy for Professor Ze'ev Naveh, a renowned scientist of ecological studies of plants in Israel, who passed away this week. He then spoke in commemoration of Dr. René Karshon, the forestry engineer who passed away in 1999. Grants for students at the Volcani Institute are given in the name of Dr. Karshon.
Dr. Haim Saban, chairman of the Agricultural Research Association, said that “people who deal with agriculture know that uncertainty is the principal problem of every farmer. That is, how can a situation be created in which one does not live according to the fluctuations, whether rain will fall or not.”
The three grant award winners presented their research in brief, all of which were related to pine forests in Israel. Daphna Glazer had studied seed destruction as a factor that regulates the proliferation of pine trees in Mediterranean nurseries. The main purpose of this research was to identify the seed predators and to examine the relationship between seed destruction and tree density. To this end, she positioned seed destruction sites that only allowed access to a specific predator, such as rodents, ants or birds, and she even documented the activity of the predators photographically.
The research of Tamir Klein focused on the eco-physiology of water economy in the Jerusalem pine, from leaf level to forest level. Among other things, the flow of water in the tree trunks in Yatir Forest was measured, and an experiment in the desiccation of pine saplings was carried out, in order to learn about how the tree deals with arid conditions. This study was presented by Shabtai Cohen, the academic advisor.
Shahar Samra investigated genetic differences between populations of gall wasps and their hosts – the pine processionary moth and the caper bug – in pine forests in Israel. The aim of the research was to improve natural pest control of the pine processionary moth by the wasp. Planting caper bushes increased the presence of the caper bug, an insect that attracts the gall wasps and later in the season, also attack the processionary moth.
At the end of the presentation of the research studies, Dr. Saul Manor presented the grants to the students who had earned them.
Third Session: Water, Trees and Parks
The third session of the day was chaired by Sima Kagan.
Professor Noam Shoval spoke about forest utilization by its users. Research data was collected by GPS devices in Canada Park. To this end, GPS devices were distributed to visitors in Canada Park, who were in cars, on bicycles or on foot. At the end they also filled out a questionnaire describing their visit. It appeared that visitors spend more than 70% of their time in the area of the lake and the springs.
The study investigated the effect of a marketing maneuver on visiting a certain location. The researchers recommended to the visitors that they visit a certain area of the park, and, as a result, there was an increase from 2.5% to 5% in the visits there. An interesting variable revealed that there was a decrease in visits to the park among its regular visitors as a result of the marketing intervention, apparently because they are seeking quiet areas without a lot of people.
Yaron Zinger, a doctoral student at Monash University in Australia, presented the biofilter project in Kfar Saba, a system for collection of urban runoff, biological treatment of the water for removal of pollutants, and infiltration of the purified water into the groundwater, to replenish it and improve its quality. The project was initiated and carried out thanks to a contribution made by KKL-JNF Victoria, Australia.
“The starting point of the project was that runoff is a resource, not a problem,” explained Zinger. In the rainy season, runoff gets collected, goes through biological treatment using assorted plants, and is then introduced into the groundwater by means of deep wells. In the dry season, the biofilter does dialysis to the groundwater – pumping water from polluted wells, treating it, and then returning it to the groundwater. Analysis of the water indicates that the water introduced to the system is very polluted with nitrates, suspended solids, oils and fuels; while the treated water that leaves the system is close to potable quality and can be safely used for all types of irrigation for parks and agricultural uses. Two additional biofilter pilots are now being planned, as well as the use of an additional technology, runoff reserves for flushing toilets.
Dr. Menachem Moshelion spoke about the development of quantitative criteria for classification of the resistance to aridity of forest trees. “The question arises as to how it is possible to classify resistance to aridity, apart from counting the trees. We seek methods that are effective and quick, in order to learn about the survival capabilities of trees in arid situations.” The research examined proteins that facilitate the passage of water in the plant, and focused on assorted cypress and pine trees.
It was discovered that the cypress is the most wasteful, for it evaporates water and sustains a high level of convectivity even when the ground is dry. It is therefore more sensitive to dryness than the pine. Precise concurrence was found between the KKL JNF report on tree deaths after several years of drought, which was undertaken in 1999, and the findings of this study, which measured the evaporation of water from the trees in periods of drought. The research established a number of criteria, which allow for quick identification of plants with a high probability of surviving arid situations.
Dr. Yagil Osem of the Volcani Center spoke about renewal, survival and the physiology of the Valonia oak in KKL JNF forests. His research was done in the Meitzar Forest in northern Samaria, which is comprised primarily of the Calabrian pine, and investigated the function of the Valonia oak in a conifer sub-forest. Measurements were taken as to the development of the tree, its structure and physiological function – its water economy and photosynthesis. It was found that oaks growing outside the forest developed remarkably faster than oaks within the forest, which were exposed to 85% less illumination daily. The scientist suggested considering opening windows of light in the forest, in order to encourage the development of the oaks.
Omer Golan spoke about the diffusion and seasonal activities of the eucalyptus borer and the gall wasp in the forests of Israel. Eucalyptus trees that are harmed by dryness are assaulted by the borer, which is an invader species from Australia. The caterpillars of the eucalyptus borer grow on the branches and on the trunk, and they often cause the death of the tree within a few weeks. It has been found that there is a small Australian wasp (Avetianella longoi), which is a natural enemy of the eucalyptus borer. This wasp found its way to Israel on its own. The proliferation of the borer and the wasp were studied in different geographical locations in Israel and among different sorts of eucalyptus trees. Unfortunately, the wasp was not found to be effective as a biological pesticide of the eucalyptus borer, probably because of climate factors in Israel.
Dr. Eli Saadi of the Ministry of Agriculture spoke about the changes in diversity of flora in the KKL JNF grazing forests in southern Israel. He presented the friction between the herd owners, the KKL JNF regional directors and the local residents. The research included collecting samples of soil from the vicinity of abandoned sheep pens in the Plugot and Beeri forests, in order to study the seed bank. The conclusion drawn from the research was that the process of renewal of the flora takes 15 to 20 years. Anemones, for example, did not grow back in the area even ten years after the herds left the area. It was estimated that it is the urine of the animals that harms the flora.
Prof. Rony Wallach of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem presented the effect of olive trees on the wettability of the ground. Rejection of water by the ground (hydrophobia) is caused by flora (such as pine and eucalyptus), fires, microbial activity and long term irrigation with effluents. Hydrophobic soil deters water permeation, which causes runoff and erosion. An additional problem is that the water which does succeed in permeating hydrophobic soil disperses unevenly and less advantageously for the plants. It was found that olive trees gradually increase the ground’s rejection of water. This means that even drip irrigation is not always going to be effective.
Pinhas Kahana, Director of the KKL JNF Planning Division, presented dilemmas, challenges and opportunities in the development of parks and metropolitans recreation areas. KKL JNF was one of the first organizations to coin the concept of the metropolitan park. The purpose of the park is to fill the need for leisure, to protect the contiguity of open spaces, to create breaks between developed areas, to connect the urban with the rural, to improve the quality of life of the residents, and to allow for an integration of agriculture in recreation areas. “Planning requires relating to the supply and demand of leisure as well as environmental issues,” explained Kahana.
He noted that in urban areas, where land is expensive, protection of park areas has to withstand a great deal of pressure for construction and development. “The involvement of a number of authorities is also likely to adversely affect preservation and care,” he said.
Fourth Session: KKL-JNF Opens to the World
The fourth session, which dealt with KKL-JNF's international relations, opened with a presentation by Dr. Omri Bonneh, KKL-JNF Northern Region Director, about the international activities of KKL-JNF's Land Development Authority. “Research helps enrich our knowledge about the management of open spaces, for KKL JNF and for other organizations involved in the field,” said Dr. Bonneh. “International collaborations allow KKL JNF to learn from the knowledge accrued in other places,” he said, “and to share from our own experience, for example in combating desertification.”
Dr. Bonneh added that the international contacts that were created as a result of different research studies strengthen the position of Israel in the world and highlight aspects of the State of Israel that are not usually aired in foreign media. He screened a video clip, in which a senior ecologist from the United States Forestry Service, Hugh Sapper, spoke about the Carmel fire and emphasized the ground forces in fire fighting and not necessarily the aerial ones.
Moshe Shaler, KKL-JNF Director of Community Forests, said that community forestry was imported to Israel a number of years ago following a meeting at an urban and community forest forum in the Netherlands. “KKL JNF representatives continue to attend the conference,” said Shaler, “but by now we also have what to teach others in this field.” International conferences not only bring KKL JNF to the forefront of knowledge but also provide an opportunity for putting practical experience to practice. “For example, Shoham Park underwent a planning revision in relation to bicycles, as part of an international workshop,” he said.
Aviram Tzuk, Upper Galilee and Golan Region Director, spoke about the participation of a KKL JNF delegation at a UN forum for forests, which convenes every two years and deals with professional topics in the field of forestry. The KKL JNF delegation participated in the latest conference, which took place in February, with the participation of Aviram Tzuk, Israel Tauber and Moshe Shaler. The many discussions led to the consolidation of position papers and policy documents on the issue of sustainable forestry.
There were also round table events at the forum, and KKL JNF representatives read a declaration on behalf of the State of Israel and KKL JNF regarding the afforestation work being done in Israel, which was heard by representatives from all over the world. “Since Abraham planted a tamarisk in Beersheba, tree planting is one of the commitments of the Jewish people,” the declaration said. “Israel sees itself as part of the world effort for sustainable forestry and is prepared to share its experience with anyone who is interested in learning from us.”
The high point of the conference for KKL JNF was a KKL JNF side-event that aroused a great deal of interest in KKL JNF's work in all its areas of activity, at which forty people from over twenty countries participated. Tauber presented the topic of afforestation in Israel, Shaler spoke about the community forests, and Tzuk presented the Hula Lake as an ecological project that benefits the public. “I am sure we brought a new spirit to the Israeli delegation at the UN, and we also provided an opportunity to relate to positive things happening in Israel,” Tzuk concluded.
David Brand spoke about the import and acclimatization of a predatory fly from Hawaii (Neoleucopis Tipiae), a natural enemy of the woolly pine aphid, an aphid that disturbs the flow of water within plants and can endanger entire forests. This aphid reached Hawaii many years ago, when the United States Forestry Service brought a predatory fly from Afghanistan to Hawaii as a biological pesticide.
In coordination with the US Forestry Service, a KKL JNF team went to Hawaii. The Israeli representatives went to 25 locations, going from island to island, until they found active colonies of the aphid. “We feared that if we returned to Israel without this predatory fly after being sent to Hawaii, we would be devoured in Israel,” Brand laughed. Finally, in a forest that had undergone a fire, where there was young growth, predatory aphids and flies were found. They were packed in special containers and even receiving flight permits from the American authorities, and the predatory fly was brought to Israel.
After two years of testing in laboratory conditions, these flies are now being let out in a more open plant nursery for further experiments and testing before being set free in nature. Dispersal of the predatory fly is scheduled to begin in the summer, and it is hoped that the woolly pine aphid will be controlled.
Anat Gold, the director of KKL-JNF's Southern Region Planning Department, attended a land use conference in Copenhagen and spoke about urban forests and parks as a change-inducing factor. The green space in the city includes a forested area, a manmade lake, a facility for harvesting rainwater, and a rehabilitated garbage dump, which has turned into a scenic lookout with a view of the city. Use of bicycles in Denmark is not just a sport but the principal mode of urban transportation and a way of life. Gold spoke about an especially fascinating presentation she heard at the conference on the accelerated development in China, which presents the dilemma between urban development and the ecological preservation of the environment. In conclusion, she said that in all the different models that were presented by conference participants, three principles were mentioned: community, environment and economy. Obviously, these points are well connected to the work of KKL JNF in Israel.
Klil Adar, Deputy Director of the Northern Region Forest Division, reviewed his year of forestry studies in Montana, USA. “Beyond the interesting studies, meeting the other students opened a window to the world for me,” he said. The visit to the United States also provided an opportunity to become familiar with many exciting projects, and exposure to advanced technologies, he said. “One interesting topic is the imitation of natural disturbances by foresters and the repair of mistakes—for example, the cancellation of forest roads,” he noted. In conclusion, Adar said that the afforestation challenges of the 21st century are very complex. “The year in the USA presented me with a whole toolbox that will be useful to us in dealing with the challenges of afforestation in the future, and we should not be afraid to use these tools.”
Dr. Omri Bonneh concluded the day be expressing his thanks to the people at KKL JNF, who are dedicated to creating international collaborations and contribute so much to KKL-JNF's international reputation as an expert and professional organization.
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