Young Future Foresters Awarded Scholarships at Agriculture Faculty

Wednesday, June 13, 2012 12:18 PM

The award ceremony for the Ronald Appleby grants for Foresters of the Future takes place in the Faculty of Agriculture in Rehovot.


The awarding of the scholarships. Photo: Yoav Devir

Israel’s future foresters are being nurtured in the Faculty of Agriculture in Rehovot, in a program KKL-JNF has been guiding in recent years. The award ceremony for the Ronald Appleby grants for Foresters of the Future, which also featured presentations of research studies in the field of afforestation, was attended by KKL-JNF representatives, Hebrew University research scientists and students of the Faculty.
David Brand, KKL-JNF Chief Forester, opened the ceremony by congratulating the scholarship recipients, and said that KKL-JNF and the Faculty of Agriculture have been working together for many years. The collaboration includes assistance for research, student employment for practical experience, hiring foresters when they finish their studies, and awarding the scholarships contributed by the Appleby family of Toronto, Canada, who are good friends of KKL-JNF.
KKL-JNF Deputy CEO, Yosef Eyal, said that it was an auspicious event not only for the grant recipients and the Faculty personnel, but also for KKL-JNF, as an organization that manages vast expanses of forested areas, natural woodland and open spaces. “This is where our future professionals are being produced,” said Eyal, “and the real test is how we will take this knowledge and use it.”

Yosef Eyal. Photo: Yoav Devir

Everyone present was pleased to hear that KKL-JNF is planning to hire two new foresters per year, who have completed their masters degrees, with the aspiration to further expand the quota and increase it to five foresters. There was more good news: while the present scholarships are only available for undergraduate and graduate studies, the plan for the future is to extend this to doctoral studies. “KKL-JNF is at the core of this knowledge, and we must rely on the most capable people in the field,” concluded Eyal.
Prof. Haim Kigel from the Institute of Plant Sciences said that along with increased awareness about the importance of the preservation of open spaces, it has become evident that more professionals are necessary in the field. “This is why we established the program for the management of open spaces ten years ago, to cultivate skilled professionals for various frameworks. Unfortunately, it is the only program of its kind at present in Israel’s universities.”
Prof. Kigel noted that a generation of KKL-JNF workers is approaching retirement and will be taking a lot of knowledge and experience with them. “We have to prepare the future generation of experts,” he said, “and the Appleby Foundation has a principal role in drawing students to this field of study.”
Hagai Yablovitch is a living example of the career path of a forester, from his studies in the Appleby program to his work at KKL-JNF. He spoke about the inestimable value of his academic training at the Agriculture Faculty in his present job, and he told the students about the work of a forester. Yablovitch is in charge of an area covering 50,000 dunams (50 km2) in central Israel, which hosts a great number of visitors. He presented the diverse tasks of a forester, from planting trees to fighting wildfires, creating bicycle trails and developing community forests.
Itai van Rijn, representing the award recipients, presented his research, which investigated the composition of species in bee communities. The ceremony then took place, and the scholarships were awarded to the ten recipients; five undergraduates and five graduate students.
Forestry Research Studies
Following the ceremony and the scholarship awards, the academic part of the meeting took place. Dr. Yagil Osem presented research he had carried out on the influence of thinning mature forests of Jerusalem pines on the vitality of the trees, on their natural regeneration and on biodiversity. This was a long term ecological study, which was undertaken in conjunction with KKL-JNF. The study examined three major goals in forest management:
1. Finding ways to lengthen the life of the present generation and improving its resilience;

2. Creating the next generation in a gradual process; and

3. Increasing the biodiversity.

Yagil Osem presents his reseach. Photo: Yoav Devir

In his research, a number of forested areas were studied in Martyrs Forest in the Judean Hills. It was found that the growth rate of trees that remained in the thinned forest increased significantly. Thinning the forest reduced the mortality rate of older trees and also served to considerably improve the water economy. Before thinning, the dense, aging forest contained 80 species of plants. Research showed that as thinning increased, so did the number of species, until it matched that of the open spaces—about 160 different species.
Dr. Efrat Shefer, from the Agricultural Research Organization, presented research on the future integration of forest and natural woodland as a basis for the development of a new ecosystem in Israel’s open spaces. Shefer studied what happens to pines that spread from the forest into areas of Mediterranean brush, and the dynamics of the establishment of oaks within areas of pine forest.
Findings showed that there were many more oaks in the forest than pines outside the forest. It was also found that oaks actually did better in mature forests and in forests with medium density. The effects of grazing were also studied, and findings showed that grazing contributes to the consolidation of the pines, apparently because it reduces the competition, but it inhibits the oaks, which seem to be a preferred food for the goats.
Dr. Orna Reisman-Berman, from Ben Gurion University, spoke about the effects of planting density on the development of natural brush in planted forests. She detailed forest interface recommendations for encouraging the establishment of natural brush in forested areas, in accordance with the trend KKL-JNF has been leading. Among the recommendations were planting acorns with gaps in between the seeds, creating shade, thinning other trees, opening a canopy and creating a mosaic of a forest form with diversified surroundings.

Scholarship recipients group photo. Photo: Yoav Devir
Dr. Menahem Mosheleon, from the Agriculture Faculty, spoke about the development of quantitative criteria for classification of pine species in accordance with their durability in arid conditions. This topic is especially important for KKL-JNF in its constant search for species that can endure aridity and flourish in climate conditions in different areas in Israel.
Remarkably, it was found that the mortality rate due to water scarcity was the same for young and old trees. One of the applications of the study will assist KKL-JNF plant nurseries in identifying in advance those seedlings with the highest likelihood of survival, and in avoiding planting saplings that will die for certain as soon as there is a year of drought.
Beyond assisting students with scholarships and information in their forestry research, the meeting also facilitated a fascinating forum for the various entities that are involved with forestry. There was a direct and informative dialogue between experienced foresters with a wealth of practical knowledge, academics with profound scientific insight, and young, inspired students—the next generation of forestry and forest research.