Long Term Ecological Monitoring for Israel's Forests

Sunday, January 22, 2017 10:47 AM

Countries all over the world are eager for KKL-JNF’s knowledge and know-how.

On Tuesday, January 10, a one-day KKL-JNF Land Development Authority research conference took place on the topic of long term ecological research (LTER) in KKL-JNF forests.  The René Karshon Scholarship was also presented to outstanding Forestry students of the Volcani Institute.

The conference, which took place at the Agricultural Research Authority Volcani Center, was opened by Chief KKL-JNF Forester Dr. David Brand, who explained the conference’s theme:

“This year’s annual Land Development Authority conference will focus on long-term forest and ecological monitoring, remote sensing and ecological services that the forests and open spaces provide to Israel’s residents,” Dr. Brand said.

KKL-JNF World Chairman Danny Atar greeted conference participants:

Countries all over the world are eager for KKL-JNF’s knowledge and know-how. Even Europe, which is covered by forests, wants to learn from KKL-JNF experts about forest maintenance and policy, along with how to stop desertification processes. It is time for KKL-JNF to take the next step, which in my opinion is to move to the global stage. Our ability to do so is dependent on the sort of applied research that this conference is devoted to, so David Brand will continue to be very busy for a long time!”

KKL-JNF Acting Director General Alex Hefetz said that from the first minute of the morning, “KKL-JNF professionals are thinking about people, water, combating desertification, afforestation, and so much more. Our research is not limited to the confines of the academy, it is in the field. This is what we call Eco-zionism, this is what makes KKL-JNF an inspiration for other countries.”

Dr. Eli Finerman, Director of the Agricultural Research Authority, said that he was new at this job, “but I immediately heard about the close cooperation between KKL-JNF and the Volcani Institute. There is an ancient Chinese proverb which says that if each of us has a pinecone, and we exchange them, each of us still has one pinecone. If, however, we exchange ideas, each of us will have two ideas. Working with KKL-JNF is a win-win situation for both organizations.”

Dr. Sinaia Netanyahu, Chief Scientist at the Ministry for Environmental Protection, emphasized the importance of long-term methodic monitoring.

“We make decisions whose consequences are often irreversible, so it is critical to base them on knowledge and research. Since 1970, average global temperatures have risen by 1.3-1.6 percent. How do we mitigate the effects? How do we prepare for changes? KKL-JNF, the Ministry for Environmental Protection, and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority cooperate on the study of ecosystems, and it is important for people outside the system to be aware of this. I often participate in international scientific conferences, and I always see just how much KKL-JNF’s expertise is appreciated by scientists throughout the world.”

Outgoing LDA Director Kobi Mor noted that what makes KKL-JNF unique is the fact that its research projects are based on both theory and practice.

“KKL-JNF is the hi-tech of environmental studies, and its future is dependent on the implementation of top-level forestry research in the field.  I would like to thank KKL-JNF for four years of working together. KKL-JNF foresters and LDA professionals are the backbone of the organization and are deserving of the greatest appreciation.”

Former LDA Director Gershon Avni and Professor Tzvika Mandel eulogized Mordechai Ruah, Dr. Yerahmiel Kaplan and Haim Leibovitz, acclaimed researchers who passed away during the past year.

First Session: Long-term Monitoring in Ecosystems Managed by KKL-JNF

KKL-JNF Chief Forester Dr. David Brand opened the session by saying that he was proud to note that KKL-JNF has five LTER stations, the fifth of which was opened this past year.

The first lecture, entitled Insights and Ramifications of Long-term Research in time and space in Israel’s conifer forests was given by Professor Dan Yakir, who pointed out that the word “monitoring” sounds rather passive.
“I personally prefer to speak about research, a word that better reflects what we are doing. KKL-JNF is a source of financing for our research, but its involvement doesn’t end there. KKL-JNF professionals are our partners in the field, and our findings have achieved international acclaim. As Danny Atar mentioned previously, the impact of what we are doing is global, not just local.

“We have found that trees are laboratories that store treasure houses of information if we only know how to access it. At the joint research project of KKL-JNF and the Weizmann Institute in Yatir Forest that begun 17 years ago, our goal is to offer insights regarding the processes that explain and quantify expected changes along with providing tools to predict and adapt to future changes. The importance of our research is expressed in the fact that Yatir Forest is one of the most famous forests in the world. There is hardly a conference on forestry where it is not mentioned.”

Professor Moshe Shahak spoke about Main insights from 25 Years of research in the Northern Negev. He noted that the first studies in this region concentrated on the dynamic connections between rainfall and runoff. “Today, he concluded, “our scientific research concentrates on how climate change affects water-limited systems, and how lands managed by KKL-JNF are affected by extreme weather events.’

Dr. Yigal Asam also spoke about LTER in Israel’s forests, noting that “goal-oriented and sustainable forest management demands long-term planning and implementation processes that lean on reliable assessments of the situation of the forest and the processes taking place in it. Towards that end, a long term plan for the monitoring of Israel’s conifers forests was decided upon.”

The topic of Yakir Friezler’s lecture was Understanding the ecological and environmental aspects of planted forests in semi-arid regions in changing climatic conditions. He, too, based his research on Yatir Forest, concentrating on the effects of tree density on tree vibrancy and pine tree renewal; long term monitoring of the impact of climate change on forest development and renewal; and the effects of the ground cover on the sprouting of seedlings and the development of young trees.

The session’s final lecture, on the LTER Station located at Nahal Shita in the Arava, was delivered by Dr. Eli Gruner. Nahal Shita is a relatively small creek with a drainage basin of 24 km. The streambed was found to have changed over the years, dependent on precipitation. Local acacia trees were also tracked over a period of time. One of the research project's goals is to develop means and tools for studying desert trees, whose conditions are very different from forests in other regions.

Second Session: Awarding Rene Karshon Scholarship Grants

The second session was opened by Professor Zvi Mandel from the Volcani Institute and Dr. Haim Zaban, former head of the KKL-JNF Land Development Authority. Professor Mandel spoke in commemoration of Dr. René Karshon, the forestry engineer who passed away in 1999, and in whose name grants are awarded to outstanding students at the Volcani Institute. This year’s recipients were Yotam Perlman, Hagar Fuchs, Hen Karo and Eliasaf Binenefeld. After receiving their grants, each of the four recipients presented a brief description of their research in the field of forestry, focusing on pine trees and native Mediterranean species.

Third Session: Remote Sensing and Ecosystem Services

The third session of the conference, which was chaired by KKL-JNF Southern Region Deputy Chairman Itzik Moshe, opened with a lecture by Victor Elhanati on identifying diseased trees using thermal photography. One of the main causes of the aging of pine trees in Israel’s forests over past years is their weakening due to pests and disease. Research showed that aerial photography has great potential to serve as a means of identifying trees at risk in large areas of forest, making it possible to prepare a plan for lessening the damage. Following him, Dr. Michael Sprintzin spoke about using multispectral cameras and drones to carry out survival surveys of young forests.

Lior Amdor discussed the development of a method for assessing the tourist and recreation services that forests and open spaces provide for visitors. Information such as proximity to villages or urban centers, accessibility, safety, natural attractions such as water, and more, can help foresters to choose which sites they prefer to develop with the goal of attracting more visitors.

The snowstorm that swept across Israel in December 2013 caused a great degree of damage in Biriya Forest in Israel’s north. Dr. Hagit Zimroni spoke about visitors’ attitude to the forest vis-à-vis the work done by KKL-JNF foresters after the storm, such as removing broken trees and branches from the site.

The session’s final lecture was delivered by Oded Cohen, who spoke about the spreading of acacia saligna, which is considered an invasive species, in the Judean Mountains National Park. A survey by car and on foot was conducted to determine the density of these acacias in this region. Since there is a limited budget for the work necessary to eradicate the species, the survey recommended first treating those areas that were most accessible and where there was lesser density of the acacias.

Fourth Session: Planning, Land-Water and Birdwatching

The last session of the day was chaired by KKL-JNF Chief Scientist Dr. Omri Boneh, who noted the importance of research on topics such as birdwatching, for managing KKL-JNF lands. Lihi Golan opened the session with a discussion of what makes a biospheric park successful, reviewing different approaches in Israel and worldwide. One of her conclusions was that the involvement of the general public in the decision-making process and implementation is very important for a biosphere park’s success.

Dafna Oni spoke about the role of forests in lessening dust in the air. Research found that forests are important in absorbing and dispersing dust during sandstorms, which is useful to know in terms of planning forests in areas especially susceptible to this phenomenon.

The topic of Eli Argaman’s lecture was preserving the quality of farming lands by burying organic wastes in fields every few years, not only as fertilizer, but as a means of preventing erosion and surface runoff, which is destructive to the land.

On the subject of birds, Adi Domar spoke about the forests as a resting stop for songbirds in the Northern Negev. She focused on Ein Rimon, a popular songbird site in Lahav Forest where KKL-JNF planted terebinths that have a great deal of fat-saturated fruits, but they are low in sugar, which adversely affects the songbirds’ ability to store energy. In order to attract songbirds to KKL-JNF sites, it was recommended that KKL-JNF plant flora that flowers in the fall and can provide the birds with the necessary carbohydrates for their migration.

The concluding lecture of the session and of the day was delivered by Uzi Dagan, who spoke about how the forest and its undergrowth affect birds and their behavior in adult conifer forests.