Species Considered Rare are Actually Common in Israeli Forests

A project which surveyed the biodiversity in KKL-JNF's forests over a period of three years discovered new species of plants in Israel and changed the perception of species that were considered rare.

During the KKL-JNF's Forest and Open Fields Conference, which will be held on Thursday at the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History located in the Tel Aviv University, a special report summarizing three years of a large-scale project devoted to the development of the mapping, reviewing and marking systems of the protected nature assets in the KKL-JNF forests will be presented. The report, made by Dvora Lev Haramati, Dr. Ben Nathan of the DESHE Institute and Omri Shalev from the Ecology Division of the Forest Department in KKL-JNF, and initiated and supervised by Yahel Porat of the Ecology Division of the Forest Department in KKL-JNF and a large policy team from KKL-JNF and the Israel Nature and Park Authority, examined the work systems needed to protect nature assets.

As part of the project, protocols for ecological surveys at the KKL-JNF forests that are about to be trimmed and renewed have been developed, and many nature surveys in areas that are about to be trimmed and renewed were made. In such areas, endangered plants, large portions of Sternbergia clusiana, trees and resting and mating areas for animals, along with wet and unique habitats were mapped. A report summarizing the findings of each survey and preservation guidelines was submitted for each forest, with the conclusion of each survey. An analysis of the survey results shows that the KKL-JNF forest maintain many nature assets and unique habitats, and that little information existed about them so far.

The natural asset surveys at the KKL-JNF forests that were developed as part of this project close the gaps of missing information regarding the biodiversity in these forests. For example, some of the significant botanic findings include new plant species in Israel, large and stable populations of endangered species, and observations that expand the dispersion of rare species. In addition, several forests were revealed to be the centers of important preservation of endangered species, especially habitats under threats that lack presence in nature reserves, as wet habitats and soil remains in the valleys, the heights and the coastal plain. The importance of the forests as preservation centers for endangered species is especially notable at the coastal plain, an area of many construction projects with almost no nature reserves or non-agricultural open fields other than the KKL-JNF forests. These forests are unaltered, unique fields.

A notable examples is the Hadera forest, where little and partial information existed regarding endangered plant species. Surveys held before that trimming in the forest revealed it to be a highly important area for preservation of plant species. Many endangered species were discovered, including Lehm laxa Myosotis, which is new to Israel. Many species found are almost exclusive to Hadera, or consist of isolated populations that remained on the coastal plain. The survey findings show that trimming the forest helps many species, and in some cases leads to a quick recovery process of the growth.

Porat emphasizes how during the project, ecologists discovered that protection of the natural assets found in early surveys can be practiced regularly during the trimming and renewal forest works, with no significant delay to either process.

In conclusion, the tools developed in the project allow routine performance of necessary interface works in the KKL-JNF forests while preserving the natural assets in them, and contributing to the expansion of the natural assets database.

The information collected provides important infrastructure for research, monitoring, preservations, natural assets protection in and outside the forests. This information contributes to updated understanding about the status of endangered species in Israel and the preservation of nature in the country.