A Global Perspective on Dry Land Forestry and Restoration

Monday, September 26, 2016 8:10 AM

Several of world’s leading international experts on forest management  and restoration attended the KKL-JNF seminar, entitled “Dry Land Forestry and Restoration – A Global Perspective”.

Several of world’s leading international experts on forest management  and restoration attended the KKL-JNF seminar, entitled “Dry Land Forestry and Restoration – A Global Perspective”, at the Ben Zvi Institute in Jerusalem. It was the culmination of a four day tour through Northern, Central and Southern Israel, where they examined the work that KKL-JNF is conducting in the fields of water preservation dry land restoration and forestry.
The participants of the seminar were welcomed by KKL-JNF Chief Forester, Dr. David Brand, and Karine Bolton Laor, KKL-JNF Director of International Relations and Conferences.

In his opening remarks Dr. Brand said: “over the last few days we showed our guests a sample of the unique and diverse methodologies we use in the realm of forest care. Today we have the opportunity to hear them talk about the experiences and the challenges that other countries face, regarding desertification, land degradation and restoration.”

The key note address was delivered by Professor Eduardo Rojas of the Polytechnic University of Valencia, who said that globally, there has been a disproportionate interest in tropical rainforest preservation, without much focus on dry land forests.
“Most of the dry lands are in unstable countries that lack political and financial assets to promote restoration of critical resources such as soil and water. It is these same countries that are rife with emigration that is currently causing refugee problems on the European continent. The northern countries would do well to notice this, and invest in these needy countries, to help them create a more resilient landscape for their people in ecological and social terms.”

Sven Walter, who is a program officer at UNCCD, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, said: “it is vital to achieve land degradation neutrality, by means of avoiding or minimizing degradation while rehabilitating and restoring degraded land. We must be aware that 2 billion people live in areas classified as dry lands, where 12 million hectares are being lost every year to desertification.  It is important to recognize land degradation indicators, and establish clear targets to overcome this trend. UNCCD is calling for a land-degradation-neutral world by 2030.”

Andrew Wardell, who is a senior manager at CIFOR, the Center for International Forestry Research, warned that over 1 billion people around the world live in a food insecure environment, while at the same time there is a rapid escalation of population growth. He called for wealthy countries and private organizations to be more involved in eco-education and investment.

“Israel has achieved a great deal. One just has to compare the Yatir forest with the neighboring West Bank to understand the difference. Israel has a competent forest service, and the finances available to do the job. And that is precisely my point regarding the international arena – it is useless holding conventions and conferences and making declarations, if there are no finances for implementation. That is one of the biggest challenges we all face.”

Professor Moshe Shachak of Ben Gurion University gave the Israeli perspective concerning climate change and its effects on dry land restoration.
“We in Israel are lucky because we have an impressive network of ecological sites that were developed by KKL-JNF to research and improve the functionality of ecosystems in semi-arid areas. The entire Mediterranean is experiencing a higher frequency and magnitude of drought. In the future I predict even more heightened drought conditions together with sporadic flooding. One of the challenges we are dealing with and utilizing is to make sure that flood water does not escape”.

Yahel Porat, a KKL-JNF ecologist and landscape architect, explained the importance of creating a master plan to implement goals concerning a country’s forest policies.
“Israel’s forests provide a variety of eco-system services, such as a landscape for recreation and outdoor activities, land reclamation, soil and water preservation, protection of endangered tree species and more. We continually develop new tools to achieve these goals and act to motivate other parties to take part in this process.”
The final paper, “The Lands Restoration Initiative”, was delivered by Mark Parfondry who is a forestry expert at FAO, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
“FAO recognizes that much has been done in many countries over the last decade regarding dry land restoration. However nothing or very little has been done to capitalize on the wealth of knowledge that has been accumulated, but not shared amongst restoration practitioners. So now FAO is engaged with these countries, in conducting necessary documentation, evaluation and analysis, to produce master guidelines for the restoration of degraded forests and landscape in dry lands.”