Although the grief of the families who lost their love ones to the fire will
remain forever and the trauma of property loss will be relieved only when new
homes are built, nature can be counted on to restore itself, even if it takes
years, according to University of Haifa experts.
RELATED:‘Even after flames are out, public health risk remains’Nearly half of Carmel forest destroyed by blaze
Prof. Ido Izhaki, a
forest expert in the university’s evolutionary and environmental biology
department, Dr. Lea Wittenberg of the geography and environment studies
department, and her colleague Dr. Dan Malkinson agree that the horrendous fire
will stimulate a rebirth in the lost forests and result in an impressive return
of animal biodiversity.
Izhaki, who lives in Afula and is head of the
university’s Carmel Research Center, told The Jerusalem Post
on Sunday that the
dominant tree species in the forest is the Jerusalem (Aleppo) pine, which “is
very suited to fires. When the temperatures rise as with a fire, the pine cones
open and shoot out their seeds. Warm temperatures promote germination, and if
good – but not excessive – rains follow, in the spring there will be a carpet of
He continued that he and other ecologists oppose planting of
young trees, as this is “unnecessary” if all goes well and could otherwise
interfere with natural restoration.
“We did a study on a 1989 fire in the
Carmel, which destroyed fewer trees than this one but was significant. It took
15 to 20 years for the return of most species. However, to get trees the same
size as those that were destroyed, another 10 or 15 years are
The study showed that not only the pines but also oaks that had
been burnt returned, as their roots in most cases were not destroyed but were
able to regrow.
However, Izhaki added that in those sections of the
Carmel that have been the victims of fire several times in the last three
decades, the remnants may not be able to come back, which means that restoration
will take longer and the Jewish National Fund could intervene by planting
Most forest fires are in the autumn, when the trees are dry
from the long summer months. Bushes will return without help as well, he
“At this point, money should be invested in helping the residents
rebuild their homes and restoring the infrastructure and not in replanting,” he
“We must wait a year to see what happens.”
wasting resources trying to do faster what nature will do on its own over the
next few decades, “resources should go to protecting other areas that are prone
to fires, like the Jerusalem area or the southern part of the Carmel,” Dr. Jose
Gruenzweig, senior lecturer at The Robert H. Smith Institute of Plant Sciences
and Genetics in Agriculture at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, told the
“One needs to establish border areas around the main roads in an
area to actively manage the fires that will happen so they cannot jump easily
from place to place. Large trees should be removed 50-100 meters from main
roads. Low vegetation only should be allowed to grow.
here, there were high trees on both sides of the road and fire spread from place
to place. Nobody can cope with a 20, 30, or 40 meter high flame,” he
There are management techniques to reduce flammable material
in forests as well, according to Gruenzweig.
“The South’s Yatir Forest
has been correctly pruned throughout the year. No large dead dry branches reach
to the ground to become fodder to start a large canopy fire. Pruning, trimming
and maybe grazing would reduce flammable material.
Always a question of
how many resources are available.”
Dr. Orna Reisman-Berman of the Jacob
Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research's Wyler Department of Dryland
Agriculture at Ben-Gurion University in Sde Boker, said that new techniques had
been developed over the last decade which had yet to be implemented
“Initiated fires – they’re afraid of it in Israel. It is constantly
being introduced and weighed but apparently discarded and far from
implementation because of negative public opinion,” she said.
who lives in Haifa, said that foresters disagree and always want to replant, but
ecologists see that fires are nature’s way of rebuilding and even improving a
After the sprouts appear, some may even have to be removed so
that there are not too many competing in the same soil. While a good amount of
rain is beneficial to the sprouts, heavy storms could cause the soil to be
eroded and sweep the sprouts away.
She said that when it is safe to go on
foot through the forest, her team will do mapping of the areas to find which
have been wiped out, which can regrow and which have been hit so many times that
they cannot return without help.
“We should establish a center for
education in that area to explain to the people what happened and to follow the
developments of the natural recovery,” Gruenzweig said.
it’s impossible now to know the state of the forest wildlife. “We have to wait
until things calm down.
Surely, the birds flew away and can return. Some
animals were incinerated, while others escaped to other spots where they will
have to compete for resources with other animals.
As many seeds are
disseminated by the fire and wind, the ants will return with a vengeance. Most
of them, said Malkinson, survived because their nests are
Some animals that escaped into holes are still alive. But
wild boars, porcupines and others could have been killed.
The animals in
the Hai Bar reserve were saved without having to let them escape. It must have
been traumatic for them, Malkinson said, and this could reduce their fertility.
“But I am optimistic about the ability of nature to restore
University of Haifa Dr.
Amnon Golan, a Zichron Ya’acov
resident who teaches and does research on coping with catastrophes, said there
is a “big difference between natural disasters and terror or war.”
his students studied the reaction to the 1927 earthquake in the area and the
1929 Arab riots. “After the first event, there was a lot of cooperation and
brotherhood between the Jews and Arabs, but certainly not after
Although there have been land disputes between the Jewish Ein Hod
and the Arab Ein Hud, said Golan, “I am sure that this crisis will bring them
together and [they will] help each other. There have been so many tragedies in
this land, and families are certainly left with great pain, but I am an
optimist. As a trained historian, I have seen societies go through great tragedy
and bounce back.”
Prof. Manfred Green, a Kiryat Ono resident who is dean
of the university’s School of Public Health, said that the pollution from the
fire could harm people with asthma, lung and cardiovascular disease.