KKL-JNF Research Open Day 2018

Challenges in Forest Management
The annual conference of the KKL-JNF Land Development Administration took place on Thursday, May 24. KKL-JNF-sponsored research on afforestation, water source enrichment and environmental resources was presented to the general public.
The annual one-day KKL-JNF Land Development Authority Research Seminar took place on Thursday, May 24th at the world-renowned Volcani Agriculture Institute, which is the research arm of Israel’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. In attendance were researchers and students from the institute and other academic institutions, as well as KKL-JNF senior officials, foresters and professional staff.
The seminar began with words of welcome from Yaron Ohion, the new director of the KKL-JNF Land Development Authority, who said that after a year and a half on the job, he only now realizes how complicated forest management actually is.
“KKL-JNF holds 1.6 million dunam [approx. 395,000 acres] of forest and open spaces for the benefit of the residents of Israel. We are proud to be one of the only countries in the world that have been able to increase its forest coverage over the past 100 years. Today, as a result of current climatic conditions, I am well aware that management of these areas requires knowledge and expertise that needs to be renewed and upgraded continuously.”
The first session dealt with the challenges of forest management under stress and climate change was opened by KKL-JNF's Head Forester, Dr. David Brand. He said that KKL-JNF has geared up towards finding ways to combat the threats posed by climate change to the country’s forests.
“We see the threat as comprised of three components, all of which need to be addressed. Firstly, we are experiencing the phenomena of extreme climatic conditions and drought. Secondly, as a result of the climatic change, we are finding an intensification of disease and pests attacking our forests. Lastly, the long dry season makes the woodland much more prone to fire.”
Brand said that under his guidance, KKL-JNF invests some 7 million shekels annually in forest management research.
“What may appear to be purely academic from the information you hear today, is very much not so.  We choose our research topics very carefully and I make sure that the work carried out will be both scientific and applicable. Pure science is the job of the university; we need real tools to deal with real problems.”
During the first session, six researchers delivered papers concerning their recent KKL-JNF sponsored research.

Prof. Dan Yakir of the Weizmann Institute’s Science, Earth & Planetary Sciences Department, presented the Yatir Forest as a case study for afforestation in dry areas on a global scale.
“As requested by KKL-JNF, we conducted research concerning the optimization of forest density vis-à-vis climate. This is practical information that been put to use successfully by KKL-JNF foresters. Knowledge from Israel is also used around the world, for instance, methods developed for the Yatir Forest are now being applied in Australia. However, things also work the other way round. KKL-JNF foresters work in a very empirical way with their boots on the ground. They plant, examine, change and proceed. If their experiments are successful, they turn to us to quantify the success in a more academic and scientific way. This produces new knowledge which started out on a very practical forestry level.”

Dr.Menachem Moshleon, a molecular physiologist in the Department of Agriculture at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, spoke about the physiological criteria for the classification of pine seed sources in Jerusalem, according to their response to drying stress.

Prof.Yossi Reub, also from the Hebrew University’s Department of Agriculture, related his findings concerning planting drought-resistant species as one of the solutions to the negative impact of climate change, concentrating on selection, genetics, drought resistance, and reproductive rate of the selected species.

Dr.Rakefet David-Schwartz of the Volcani Institute described research concerning physiological parameters in agricultural and forest trees that make them flourish in drought conditions. She concentrated on the genetic characterization of species of Cedar trees planted in the north of the country and identification of genotypes with rapid growth potential.

Hydrologist Shmuel Arbel spoke of the importance of harvesting flood waters in forest areas and Dr.Michael Sprinzin presented his development of a geographic information system for mapping, for forest workers. He described the different aspects of collecting and accessing information for field managers and showed how it could be used online by way of a smartphone.
The second session was devoted to the René Karshon Foundation which distributes scholarship grants to young researchers under the auspices of KKL-JNF. René Karshon was a senior researcher in the Ministry of Agriculture, who carried out a lot of important work in the Ilanot Forest. After his death, his family created the Rene Karshon Foundation in his memory. Professor Zvika Mendel and Dr. Shaul Manor presented the 2018 René Karshon grants to five researchers, each of whom delivered a brief explanation of their ongoing work to the audience. The five recipients were:
Noga Avtalion, Uri Meirovitch, Dr. Golan Miller, Noa Cohen, and Naomi Huminer.

“Ecology and Nature: Values ​​in the Forests and Open Spaces” was the theme of the final session. Dr. Yahel Porat, an ecologist and landscape architect in the KKL-JNF Department of Forestry, spoke of the challenges in preparing master plans in an era of climatic uncertainty.

Dr. Uri Peregman, who is Chief Scientist at the Botanical Gardens in Jerusalem, described his research concerning the cultivation of geophytes in the forest in times of stress. Geophytes are plants with an underground food storage organ, such as a bulb, tuber, corm, or rhizome.

Dr. Eli Za’adi of the Volcani Institute presented an examination of the ecological services of KKL-JNF groves planted on the border of agricultural areas to minimize the dispersion of contaminants and pesticides.

Dr. Yael Mandelik of the Department of Agriculture at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is an ecologist and conservation biologist working on the interaction between biodiversity, ecosystem functions, and land-use change. She examined the effect of forest complexity on a variety of pollinators and pollination services for forest plants.
The final lecture of the day was presented by researcher Yotam Zait. He described the connection between the distribution of jujube tree (Christi-Spina ziziphus), and its eco-physiology in a changing climate.
“Understanding the characteristics of this species appears to be crucial in our fight against desertification because the hardiness of the tree makes it resilient to high temperatures and aridity.”

The academic nature of the lectures did not deter the audience in the packed hall from listening to them all. KKL-JNF’s Negev and Arava Community and Forest Coordinator, Oranit Ginat, said that she intends to convey the knowledge to visitors who come to the forests in her area.
“This was very interesting. I need this knowledge for my work. When people come to the Yatir forest they want to experience the area and also to hear how it came about. Seminars like this enrich my knowledge and ultimately that of the public as well.”

Dr. Shabtai Cohen of the Volcani Institute said that although his research involves trees that are used in agriculture, such as orchards, he found it very interesting to hear the KKL-JNF lectures.
“We know that weather patterns are changing and that we need to produce fruit trees that can withstand cycles of 5 years of drought. The wild indigenous trees that I heard about today, that manage to survive and thrive in desert conditions, serve as a model for us and a definite subject for further research.”

KKL-JNF coordinators for research and foreign relations, Asaf Karavani and Shirley Nizri, were beaming with happiness at the end of the day when it became clear that seminar worked out according to plan. Karavani said that the event was the fruition of an entire year of work. “However our efforts do not end here. Besides issuing tenders for new research we still need to make sure that the current research is distilled into sustainable management practices, and implementation in the field.”

Retired researcher Prof. Gabriel Schiller was quick to point out while there is place for academic research and empirical experimentation, it is crucial to find and promote people who have the power and foresight to drive innovation forward.
“Let us not forget that the Yatir Forest would not exist today if it were not for the vision of KKL-JNF’s Yosef Weitz, who pushed forward the idea of planting the forest at a time when scientists warned him that the project will fail. Today, every visit to the Yatir Forest is a tribute to the vision of Yosef Weitz and KKL-JNF”.