2010 KKL-JNF Land Development Authority Conference

The LDA is involved in combating desertification, waterworks, afforestation, protecting nature, creating bicycle paths, recreation in nature, and more.

March 21, 2010 16:48

1. (photo credit: 1)


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2010 KKL-JNF Land Development Authority Conference on
Research and International Activities

Addressing Social and Environmental Concerns

"Along with dealing with issues related to the environment, the name 'Land Development Authority' also implies the need to address social concerns. It is almost impossible to separate between these two fields, and KKL-JNF's Land Development Authority is involved with them both on a daily basis." KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler was speaking at the 2010 KKL-JNF Land Development Authority Conference on Research, International Activities and the Presentation of Rene Karshon Foundation Grants, which took place on February, at the Ministry of Agriculture's Volcani Center in Beit Dagan. "Since 1901, when KKL-JNF was founded," Stenzler continued, "our mandate was to be the implementing arm of the Zionist movement. Obviously, not everything that was relevant in the past is still relevant today. This is why research is so important for our organization.

"The LDA is involved in combating desertification, waterworks, afforestation, protecting nature, creating bicycle paths, recreation in nature, and more. There is some aspect of its work that is relevant to everyone. Millions of Israeli citizens, along with tourists from abroad, are thankful for what is accomplished by a very small group of people. We enjoy international prestige for our achievements, a subject the conference will be addressing later on in the day. I would like to thank everyone who helped make this conference possible, and am certain that the lectures and discussions will help us in decision-making in the future."

Professor Yuval Eshdot, the Head Scientist of the Ministry of Agriculture, said that there were not many other organizations that were capable of organizing a one-day conference that addressed such varied subjects: "The Ministry of Agriculture and KKL-JNF cooperate and work hand in hand, so it is only natural that the LDA conference is being held at the Ministry's Beit Dagan site.

"Agriculture has three main goals, and all three are shared by KKL-JNF: Providing agricultural produce, dealing with the world food crisis and open spaces, and what is known as 'sustainable agriculture'. The motto of tomorrow is agriculture that is friendly to man and the environment, which means that fruits and vegetables will be healthier and we will be using fewer pesticides and chemical fertilizers. The interface between man and the environment is also where KKL-JNF is active, and I look forward to future collaborations."

Gershon Avni, the head of LDA, greeted the conference participants very briefly: "In the past, the LDA's main focus was afforestation, but today things have changed. We work closely with other organizations such as the Water Authority, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Society for the Protection of Nature, to mention only a few. This year, we are also emphasizing our international contacts, as we will be discussing later."

KKL-JNF CEO Yael Shealtieli noted that the connection between people who work in the field daily and researchers from the Volcani Institute has proved to be very fruitful for both sides: "KKL-JNF is at the forefront of research on managing open spaces, water reservoirs, river restoration, and much more. Sustainable development is defined as using the interest derived from our natural resources while saving and protecting the capital for future generations.

"The interest that scientists and field workers from all over the world have shown in our work is proof of its value and international significance. We enjoy close ties with the United States Forestry Service and the International Dry Lands Consortium, and send and receive delegations from East Asia and Africa. As for global warming, our work in afforestation in semi-arid regions is groundbreaking. I would also note the Manitoba-Israel Water Experts Conference that took place in Israel this year. In addition, we held the groundbreaking ceremony for the Kfar Saba bio-filter, a project we are carrying our together with JNF Australia. For the first time in Israel, urban runoff from rainwater will be collected, purified and re-channeled to the underground aquifer.

"In spite of financial constraints, we were able to increase our forest research budget in 2010, and there is a plan to channel more funds to research between now and 2010. I can also share some news that is directly related to the conference – the Ministry of Agriculture has agreed to participate in our forestry research budget, and we will also be cooperating in the future with the Israel Land Administration. This is good news for all of us."

Dr. Orr Karassin, head of the Law and the Environment Program at Sapir Academic College School of Law and a member of the KKL-JNF Board of Directors, concluded the conference's first session, surprising everyone with a picture of Marsha, a Neanderthal woman: "There are different scientific opinions as to how Neanderthals became extinct about 30,000 years ago. A few years ago, eleven scientists conducted a research project which led them to the conclusion that the Neanderthals disappeared because they didn't adapt to climate change. The earth during that time was covered by forests, and the Neanderthals would hide in the thick brush before assaulting their prey. When the Ice Age began and the forests began to disappear, they didn't develop new hunting methods. They eventually became extinct, while the modern humans survived.

"What does this have to do with our conference today? Very simple – we are already living in a time of climate change. Global temperatures have risen by three-quarters of a degree, and according to the most conservative estimates will rise by another half-degree by 2020, at least. Over the past few years, scientists have begun to emphasize adaptation as well as mitigation in response to climate change. At the recent Copenhagen Conference, where I had the honor to head the KKL-JNF delegation, the need to think about adaptation went from theory to deed. Thirty billion dollars were allocated for adaptation for 2010-2012, with another one hundred billion dollars for 2012 to 2020. 

"There is proactive adaptation and natural adaptation. Proactive adaptation is planned and involves governmental intervention, and KKL-JNF should be a partner to this. Proactive adaptation aspires to provide solutions prior to catastrophes, and by doing so is much lest costly.

"In terms of what we can do, we need to define our adaptive capacity, which means increasing the flexibility of our means of production and consumption habits. In addition, we must reduce our vulnerability by lessening our dependence on natural resources, for instance, by desalination, by decreasing our exposure to future crises, and by climate-friendly planning, for example when building.

"As for KKL-JNF's part in adaptation, I would recommend increased research on the subject, mapping of the relevant fields and strategic planning, and finding species and ecotypes adaptable to changing conditions, for which the Negev can be a living laboratory.

"We also need to increase our international connections and collaborations. At Copenhagen, we had the opportunity to share KKL-JNF's achievements with the international community. Itzik Moshe's lecture was very well received, and there was a constant stream of visitors to the KKL-JNF pavilion, who were very interested to learn about our activities. I believe that today, KKL-JNF is more open to look outwards. Our knowledge can be of great benefit to third world countries, and we can learn methods from other countries that can be implemented in Israel."

Awarding Rene Karschon Foundation Scholarships

Professor Tzvika Mandell of the Volcani Institute, who chaired the second session of KKL-JNF's Land Development Authority Conference, announced the presentation of the Rene Karschon Foundation scholarship awards to three forestry researchers. As Professor Mandell said, "It makes perfect sense for this ceremony to be part of the KKL-JNF LDA conference, because the research the Foundation is sponsoring is all related to forestry. Dr. Rene Karschon, who was already a legend when he lived, was the driving force behind forestry research in Israel."

Dr. Haim Tzaban, chairman of the Volcani Institute Agricultural Research Trustees Society, opened the session by speaking about Terumah, the weekly Torah portion: "In order to build the Tabernacle in the desert, the children of Israel are asked to donate the wood of shita trees, which is translated as acacia. Rashi, the medieval Biblical commentator, asks how it was possible that they had lumber with them in the desert. His answer is that before they went to Egypt, Jacob, foreseeing the divine command to build the Tabernacle, told them to plant trees. Forests need vision and soul. KKL-JNF has created our local landscape; it is a dynamic organization that is always looking to the future. Its dedication to research proves this, and we are privileged that KKL-JNF redeems Israel, man and the land."

Advocate Rivka Sprintzak was invited to present the scholarships to the recipients, but before doing so, she had warm words for KKL-JNF: "As a lawyer, I spend a good deal of my time writing contracts for land purchases. After hearing the fascinating lectures at the conference, I am realizing for the first time that land is more than a commodity. I had no idea whatsoever of the extent of KKL-JNF's activities."

Yerach Kaplan, a friend and colleague of Dr. Karschon, and himself one of the first forestry researchers in Israel, spoke about Dr. Karschon: "Rene was one of the most outstanding experts on the East Mediterranean forest. He was always available for young students, and gave them advice until the end of his life. He was a true intellectual who worked closely with KKL-JNF's Afforestation Department, and their collaboration was always fruitful, particularly in the field of research. I am certain that he would be both pleased and fascinated to hear about the research that the foundation in his memory is supporting."

After they received their grants, each of the grantees gave a short summary of their research. Karin Rand is studying the biochemical defense mechanisms of aphid-induced galls on Israeli terebinths (Pistacia palestina). The terebinth is a dominant tree in Israeli and Mediterranean natural woodlands. The biggest galls are created by an aphid by the name of Baizongia pistaciae, and they receive both physical and chemical protection from the host tree.

Ilan Calev's research focuses on thinning as a means of encouraging the natural regeneration of mature Aleppo Jerusalem pine forests, and its influence on the health and vitality of the trees. A good deal of the research is being conducted in the Martyrs Forest in the Judean Mountains, which was planted by KKL-JNF in 1969. One of the goals of the project is to create forest thinning methodology for the future, since many of the conifer forests planted by KKL-JNF are approaching maturity. 200 dunam of forest were divided into four parcels, which were thinned to different degrees. Preliminary results of the study show that thinning increases the size of tree tops and the thickness of tree trunks.

Malki Spodak is studying the taxonomy and species diversity of Coccoidea on Mt. tabor oaks and common oaks in Israel, with emphasis on the Kermesidue family of these aphids. In recent years, there has been an alarming increase in oak tree mortality in Israel. Kermesidue are well-known, and in the past were used in manufacturing a red dye. The purpose of the research is to learn as much as possible about this pest, especially in light of the fact that the last study on this subject was conducted in 1969.

Review of KKL-JNF's International Activities

Dr. Omri Boneh, head of KKL-JNF's Northern Region, who is also in charge of KKL-JNF's international ties, opened the session with a presentation of the rationale behind KKL-JNF's international contacts: representing Israel in international forums; developing technical and forestry collaborations with worldwide forestry organizations; enabling KKL-JNF personnel to take advantage of educational and professional enrichment opportunities; positioning KKL-JNF as a leading world organization in managing arid lands; supporting developing countries and providing them with advanced techniques to combat desertification; serving Israel's foreign relations and helping to promote the Middle East peace process; and contributing to KKL-JNF's national offices' fundraising activities.

"One of our most significant relationships over the years has been our connection with the United States Department of Agriculture Forestry Service, which goes back to 1987," Dr. Boneh said. "Today, 23 years later, the USFS has helped shape KKL-JNF's present day policies. KKL-JNF foresters participate in USFS seminars, the USFS funds KKL-JNF research and helped set up our Geographic Information System. KKL-JNF is also a member of the International Arid Lands Consortium, where I serve as a member of the board. We had high hopes that this organization would be a platform for regional cooperation with Egypt and Jordan, but unfortunately, scientists and researchers from these countries who wanted to work with us were attacked in their countries. We also enjoy close ties with Spain, a Mediterranean country similar to ours with whom we share many common challenges.

"2009 was not a simple year for KKL-JNF. Due to our re-organization, a lot of the people who had been responsible for international ties and research left us. We were left with less people, but our good fortune is that although the staff is small in numbers, they are determined to promote KKL-JNF wherever possible."

Aviram Zuk described his trip to Valencia, Spain, as part of a KKL-JNF delegation: "Much of Spain is covered by forest, although there has been an ongoing process of cutting the forests down since Roman times. Many of the forests are not thinned out, there are huge forest fires, and recently, there has been a lot of pubic criticism about this neglect. Spain is now taking a lot more responsibility, encouraging biological diversity and monitoring their forests. While we were there, KKL-JNF's Itzchak Moshe and Moshe Shahak described KKL-JNF activities. People responded very favorably and wanted to know more about how we care for our forests in Israel."

Hannah Bechar represented KKL-JNF at a United States Forest Service seminar on "Protected Area Management" in the northern Rocky Mountains, along with representatives from 18 countries, mainly from Africa and Asia. "We learned work methods used in the United States and in the various countries that were represented at the seminar. We presented KKL-JNF as an environmental organization, and were pleased to find that many of the participants associated KKL-JNF with afforestation in semi-arid areas. Our hosts described how they try to achieve a balance between the needs of American citizens who live next to forests and the needs of forest conservation. We were also happy to discover that KKL-JNF is very advanced in terms of community forest policy and implementation."

"Our ties with the USDA Forest Service are an excellent example of a relationship that is beneficial to both sides," said KKL-JNF's Yisrael Tauber. "For example, they learn about afforestation in semi-arid regions from us, while we recently had some questions about monitoring systems for changing ecological conditions. We asked the USDA Forest Service for advice, and they sent two people here for a week to learn about our forests firsthand. I then went to Michigan with a scientist from the Volcani Institute to learn their methods. We are now in the midst of implementing the system, and hope to begin activating it in a few months from now."

Haim Sahar went to Turkey to learn about the how trees influence the water economy: "There are two theories – one says that trees have an adverse affect, since they intercept the rain on its way down, and the water evaporates before reaching the ground. In addition, the water that does penetrate the soil is used by the trees. On the other hand, those who argue that trees are positive components of the water economy note that forests prevent erosion and flooding, and also enhance penetration of the rainwater into the earth thanks to their roots. We analyzed the situation in Israel with our Turkish colleagues, and arrived at the conclusion that for us, forests encourage the proliferation of flora and fauna, contribute to soil conservation and the ecosystem, which is ultimately supportive of water conservation.
"Due to the tense relations between Israel and Turkey over the past year, I was apprehensive about my trip, but thanks to the excellent relations KKL-JNF has fostered with the Turkish Forest Service over the years, I enjoyed full cooperation and wonderful hospitality. The Turks are also interested in learning about KKL-JNF's achievements and would like to encourage cooperation between Israel and her neighbors but unfortunately, scientists from Arab countries are hesitant about working with us due to threats they have received in the past."

KKL-JNF's David Brand, who was lauded by everyone present for his organization of the LDA conference, spoke about the problem of wasps that had been damaging Israel's eucalyptus trees: "Since eucalyptus trees originate in Australia, I traveled there together with Professor Tzvika Mandel of the Volcani Institute to look for a natural enemy of these wasps. We actually went three times before we found what we were looking for in Australia's tropical region. The wasps who attack the eucalyptus trees are vegetarians, while the natural enemy we found – also a type of wasp – have no problem eating their harmful relatives.

"We were recently approached by South Africa, which has a huge paper industry based on eucalyptus trees. The wasps were wreaking havoc there, so we went with a box of the natural enemy and taught them how to grow them and use them. It's not such a simple process, and just yesterday they called and asked us to send another box of wasps.

"KKL-JNF shares its knowledge and expertise entirely free of charge. We do so in order to achieve international recognition, but also because we believe that it is Israel's mission to be 'a light unto the nations' and to help other countries in any way we can."    

Research on Forestry and Water

The third session of the KKL-JNF Land Development Authority's Conference on Research and International Activities was devoted to presentations of research on forestry, but not only. Professor Alon Tal, a member of KKL-JNF's Board of Directors and chairman of KKL-JNF's Land Development Committee, described research conducted on the quality of water in the purified effluents reservoirs built by KKL-JNF: "There has been a constantly growing gap between supply and demand for water in Israel. Annual precipitation is decreasing, while the amount of sewage water has increased. At the current time, Israel recycles two-thirds of its effluents, a world record, much of which is stored in KKL-JNF reservoirs.

"We investigated the quality of the purified water at its entry point into 60 reservoirs, along with its quality after its having been stored in the reservoirs. We found that about 70% met the standards that are currently acceptable, meaning that approximately one-third of the water stored in the reservoirs is below standard, including an unacceptable level of antibiotics and hormones. We also found that there is a certain improvement in water quality after it has been in the reservoirs for a while, particularly in those reservoirs built with two storage components.

"Although KKL-JNF is not responsible for the quality of the water when it enters the reservoirs, as a green organization we must ask ourselves whether we should not be part of the solution to this problem. Since our research has shown that water quality can be positively affected in the reservoirs, we should build them in a manner that takes full advantage of this possibility, and we should share this need with our supporters worldwide."

Professor Maksim Shoshani reviewed research on mapping high risk forest fire areas in the Judean Mountains: "Creating high-resolution maps of potential risks allows us to make informed decisions regarding strategic planning of means of prevention, for example, the degree of thinning. A model of forest fire behavior includes wind direction and intensity, temperature, topography, amount of fuel, among others. Efficient mapping should be simple, exact and reliable, and define the rate that the fire will spread. For verification, we compared our results with a previous study that was conducted in the Carmel mountain range and had satisfactory results. The next stage will be to verify our forecasts in relation to future fires in the Judean Mountains, for which it would be helpful to receive feedback from KKL-JNF foresters in the field."

"To cut or not to cut, that is the question?" Dr. Marcello Sternberg spoke about the effects of cutting down burnt trees after forest fires, using the Biriya Forest in the north, 2000 dunams of which were burnt during the 2006 Lebanese War, as an example. "Trees that are left standing can become fuel for additional forest fires, they might fall on visitors to the forest, and the pine needles cover the forest floor. On the other hand, there is research that shows that cutting trees down after fires, which is known as 'salvage logging' is not such a good idea. For our study, we compared sections of the Biriya Forest where salvage logging took place with sections that were left as is.

"We found that in general, the forest renews itself more rapidly in those sections where salvage logging was carried out, in addition to a higher rate of new tree seed germination. The pine needles on the ground did not prove to be a problem. In general, salvage logging increased the forest's survival ability and also contributed towards forest regeneration, including greater biological diversity."

Dr. Yagil Osem spoke about natural conifer forest regeneration and how to best address this question: "Many of the conifer forests originally planted by KKL-JNF are reaching maturity and the last phase of their lives, and we need more information about the processes involved. Some of the factors we should look at are the need new seeds have for water and light over an extended period of time; water – which is affected by rainfall and topography; competing flora; and the interactions between the different factors. It is a complex topic, which makes accurate predictions difficult.

"We conducted our research in Shaharia Forest, which has an average annual rainfall of 430 mms, although there has only been about 300 mms annually over the past few years. In fact, we found that lesser amounts of rainfall inhibit forest regeneration. We also found that there is a greater potential for forest regeneration in softer rock beds, and that thick forest canopy impedes seed germination on the one hand, but helps control weeds on the other. Thinning may also be useful, and in general, competition with the other flora seems to be the most serious impediment to forest regeneration."

Ms. Efrat Shefer described the process of how Aleppo Jerusalem pines spread from forests planted by man to additional areas: "When the first Zionist pioneers arrived in Israel towards the end of the nineteenth century, they found a barren land and rocky hills. Thanks to KKL-JNF, the Israeli landscape is now green, primarily due to extensive plantings of pine trees. Pine trees produce a great deal of seeds and make very efficient use of the water supply. Seeds are critical for the growth of new pine trees, since, unlike oak trees, pines do not regenerate themselves.

"In the course of our research, we looked at the process of how Aleppo Jerusalem pine trees spread into natural woodlands on the one hand, and the development of indigenous trees in pine forests planted by man on the other hand. Initial results of the study show that the shorter the distance, the greater the proliferation of the pines. While soil type does not seem to play a major role, we found that greater annual precipitation leads to greater proliferation. Most of the pines we found in unplanted areas were young, which makes us think that the process of pine distribution has speeded up over the past few years."

"What prevents Bedouin shepherds from grazing their flocks in Israel's central region?" was the topic of Dr. Yan Landau's lecture: "Controlled grazing in KKL-JNF forests has become an important factor in preventing forest fires. KKL-JNF awards licenses to Israeli Bedouins to graze in its forests, conditional on the flock being approval and licensed by the Ministry of Agriculture. The flocks are mainly comprised of sheep, since goats damage the forests. The Bedouins are not eager to graze in the forests of Israel's central region, and the purpose of this research was to discover why.

"We found that the Bedouins who were interested on principle in grazing the forests of the central region were from the eastern Negev, as they have traditional ties to this area. The factors that affect the shepherd's decision as to where to graze include the costs of transport, food, grazing and health of the flock. The central region is further away from the Negev, which increases the cost of some of these factors, particularly transport. Children, who help with the flock, have to go to school, and being away from their home is a problem. In order to encourage Bedouins to graze in this region, KKL-JNF might consider subsidizing transportation costs and registration fees. One nice finding was that ten out of ten shepherds whom we interviewed said that they were extremely happy with how KKL-JNF deals with them."

Mr. Robert Sitbon, a KKL-JNF forester, spoke about improving the quality of Israel's trees, with particular emphasis on eucalyptus trees. "Improving tree quality includes looking for sources of exceptional seeds, identification of eucalyptus trees that can withstand dryness, choosing exceptional tree specimens and possible cloning, and crossbreeding by means of grafts. A graft needs at least five years to see how successful it is. The fastest growing eucalyptus trees there are now come from Brazil. They grow very tall after only a few years. We are also interested in eucalyptus trees that don't need a lot of water. Since trees are such an important factor in carbon sequestration, it is worthwhile to invest in developing the most durable and resources-efficient strands of trees available."

The tens of thousands of cranes at Hula Agamon have become famous in Israel over the past few years. Mr. Itai Shani presented some preliminary conclusions on the cranes' decision-making process: "At certain times of the year, over 10% of the world's crane population can be found in a very small geographic area, so it is very important to try and understand the mechanism that makes them decide when and where to be at any given time. The feeding project, in which the cranes are fed so they won't damage field crops, makes life easy for them, so some of them simply don't bother leaving and migrating. Cranes are also known for not being committed to the same migration routes.

"We found that the cranes usually begin to arrive in November. The feeding project begins in December, so they stay for the winter. In February, they begin to focus on migrating, and their weight begins to go down, possibly to make flying easier. This year, due to the heavy rains, the water level of the Hula Lake went up, which apparently caused the cranes to begin spending the nights on land rather than in the water, which they prefer only when it is shallow. All in all, 35,000 cranes will be spending some time in the Hula this year, an all-time high."

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