The Acacia Tree Stars in the Arava Ecosystem.
(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
The two-day conference (11 12 November 2015), organized by the Dead Sea & Arava Science Center (DSASC) and sponsored by Ben Gurion University of the Negev, was held at the Vidor Center – A Window to Agriculture in the Arava, which was established with the support of Friends of JNF Australia.
Among the topics addressed at the Acacia conference at the Vidor Center were the physiology, genetics and microbiology of acacia trees, the wildlife in their environs and the use of remote sensing for mapping and monitoring them. One of the main topics was the devastating oil spill in the Ein Evrona nature reserve in December 2014, which accentuated the delicate balance of the singular ecosystem of the Arava, which is dominated by the acacia tree.
The first day of the conference included presentations by leading experts, and the second day featured tours of the three main acacia research stations in the Arava: Nahal Shizaf, Nahal Shita and Ein Evrona. The station in Nahal Shita was founded by KKL-JNF and engages in monitoring and in long term ecological research (LTER).
“The acacia is the only indigenous tree in the Arava, and its contribution to the ecosystem is vital, whereas the entire complex of flora and fauna depend on it,” said DSASC scientist Dr. Gidon Winters, one of the initiators of the conference. “The acacia provides food for a variety of animals, upgrades the soil for the benefit of other plants, and its deep roots contribute to the stability of the ground and prevent erosion.”
Indeed, even if you are no expert, when you tour the region, it is not hard to notice the different species of plants growing around the acacia trees and attracting birds and insects.
Among the conference participants was Prof. Knut Krzywinski, a biologist from the University of Bergen in Norway, who is prominent in this field. He has conducted research studies on acacia trees in Sudan, Libya and Egypt, but he is particularly interested in Israel, since it is the northern extremity of acacia proliferation.
Speaking about the significance of the conference, Prof Krzywinski said, “The meeting of research scientists from different places and diverse fields is the best way to advance scientific knowledge, especially when addressing ecological issues. Only this kind of gathering can help us see the big picture. We talk, we share ideas, we exchange data, and sometimes we even argue.”
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