Forest Management in Biosphere Reserves

Several issues in forest management were discussed at the 39th Annual Conference of the Israel Society of Ecology and Environmental Sciences (ISEES) on the subject of biosphere reserves and global changes, which took place at Ein Hashofet, in northern Israel, at the end of June.

KKL_070711_H (photo credit: KKL - JNF)
(photo credit: KKL - JNF)
Two hundred papers were presented at the conference on a variety of topics, in the form of lectures, panels and posters. In the course of the conference there were also two special Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael Jewish National Fund sessions, which included lectures on forest interface issues and on the subject of the public and the community in Israel's forests.  The conference was organized by ISEES in conjunction with the Megiddo Regional Council, which hosted it, the Israel Ministry of Environmental Protection (IMEP), and KKL JNF.
In addition to the academic discussions at the conference, there were also tours of the Ramot Menashe biospheric park, a bicycle path dedication, a community service research fair and even a release of Lesser Kestrel chicks by local schoolchildren participating in a special educational project.
A biosphere reserve is an area that has been accorded statutory status and KKLintegrates its natural and human components in a single relational unit that obligates both sides.  The natural ecosystem is granted protection along with measured consideration for human needs.  The populations that live in a biosphere reserve take on norms of behavior with regard to the natural environment.  Integration between protecting nature and land development is a central principle in terms of practical approach.
In his opening greetings, Prof. Ido Itzhaki, who chaired the conference, emphasized the connection between academic study and the field.  “The question that faces us is how to turn a biospheric reserve into a social and economic success.”
Dr. Marcelo Sternberg, ISEES chairman, said there are many issues that affect an ecosystem.  “Our aim is to increase awareness of the subject and encourage scientific research and public discourse.”
Hanan Erez, head of the Megiddo Regional Council, said that UNESCO is about to approve Ramat Menashe as a biospheric park, an excellent reason to be holding the conference in this location.
Yael Shaltieli, KKL JNF CEO, spoke about the UN declaration of 2011 as the Year of the Forest. “Today we understand the central role of forests in land preservation and combating desertification.  KKL JNF’s knowledge in these areas is appreciated worldwide.”  She also said that forests are not immune to harm, pests, fires and drought.  “KKL JNF copes with these challenges, among other things, by research and development of forestry methods pursuant to changes caused by global warming.”
Dr. Sinaia Netanyahu, Chief Scientist of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, KKLexplained that a biosphere reserve allows for a balance between protecting nature and land development.  “Environmental issues affect all of us, and there is a lot of work ahead,” she concluded.
Reducing Greenhouse Gases
A special panel led by Prof. Ofira Ayalon met to discuss the national plan for reducing greenhouse gases (GHG).  The government of Israel has defined a goal of a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, as declared by President Shimon Peres at the Copenhagen Conference, which was attended by a KKL JNF delegation.  According to the experts, this is a modest goal, maybe too modest, but the State of Israel is having difficulty attaining it nevertheless.
MK Dov Hanin said that the residents of Israel are also citizens of the world, and it is their duty to be part of the global solution.  “We cannot go on living as we are living at present.  The international political system has not yet succeeded in effecting social and cultural change.”  According to MK Hanin, we should also see the climate crisis as an opportunity for significant environmental change, such as the transition to public transportation. 
Yael Cohen-Paran, representing the Israel Energy Forum (IEF), said that the program for reducing GHG emissions is certainly a breakthrough, but it has to be expanded, and its performance has to be ensured.
Eran Yaakov, Israel Tax Authority Deputy Director General of Finance and Development, presented the Green Tax Program—tax benefits to encourage more energy efficiency, less pollution and green construction.  “The goal is to cause changes in consumer considerations,” he explained.  There are examples of success already, he said, such as the transition to motor vehicles that cause less pollution.
Atty. Linor Sagi represented Forum 15, a group of municipalities that signed a convention (2008) for the promotion of local sustainability and sustainable development.  These local authorities made a commitment to work on reducing air pollution and GHG emissions, to encourage mass transit, improve green spaces, save energy and promote green construction.  “This is about a new field of knowledge being introduced to the municipal councils,” she said, “and it is a shared learning process that is now in full swing.”
Forest Interface Issues
Dr. Yagil Osem led a panel on the subject of forest interface issues, which included several KKL-JNF representatives.  Hagi Yablovich, a KKL JNF forester in the Ben Shemen region, spoke about the natural renewal of forests of Jerusalem pines in arid regions.  Research he conducted for his master thesis focused on the Yatir Forest, which was planted in the 1960s.  The aim of the study was to see if a forest could renew itself by natural processes, or if human intervention was necessary.  The research included checking the seed production of the trees, seed survival, the benefits of shade and agrotechnical methods.
In the study, close to 1,000 seedlings were found per dunam, but almost all of them dried up and died by the end of the summer.  Compared to other forests in Israel, it was found that there are less pinecones in Yatir, where the pinecones are smaller and contain fewer seeds.
Agrotechnical methods were tested for increasing the survival of seedlings by irrigation at different time periods, in different quantities and by different proportions of shade and sun.  It became clear that the survival of the sprouted saplings depended mainly on irrigation.  Without irrigation they didn’t survive.  The final conclusion was that the forest had no natural future, and human intervention is necessary for its continued existence. In recent years, KKL JNF has been diversifying the tree species there, but with regard to the majority of the forest, which is based on pines, a decision will have to be made about how to proceed.
Elie Benichou gave a talk on the growth and survival of oaks after having been transplanted, with regard to habitat and characteristics of the tree.  Transplanting mature trees is done mainly for the sake of saving ancient and rare trees, creating a park forest within a short time frame or clearing areas for grazing.
The study investigated the main factors that influence the absorption and survival of the Tabor oak in the area of Hamovil Junction in the initial years after absorption.  The goal of the research was to see when it was possible to stop irrigating the trees without endangering them or inhibiting their growth.  The factors tested were tree trunk diameter, quality of roots, when irrigation was discontinued, type and depth of soil.
91% of the Tabor oaks survived more than three years.  Naturally, trees with better quality roots survived more and developed better.  The largest survival percentage was found in trees facing south.  It was found that the deeper the soil, the lower the survival rate dropped, because terra rossa soil does not retain water, which makes it difficult for the trees to get through the summer.  Rendzina soil on chalk bedrock gave the best results.  Tree trunk diameter has no effect on survival probabilities.  Discontinuation of irrigation after two to three years did not harm the trees, although it did slow down the growth.
Nir Har, of the KKL JNF Afforestation Department, spoke about soil, bedrock and flora as the determining factors in an ecologic-biospheric system.  He presented the Ramat Menashe region as an example and focused on explanations about the creation of the various habitats where there are forests today.