Healing a Degraded Land

Healing a Degraded Land

Green sections of the Negev desert (left) as a result of savannization efforts (right). Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
Research has shown that suitable ecological treatment in semi-arid areas can prevent soil erosion and stop desertification.
More than 60 percent of Israel’s landmass in the country’s southern Negev desert and Arava Valley is arid and semi-arid, with an average annual precipitation ranging between 250 mm and less than 50mm. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in temperature and the rate of evaporation in the Negev.

In Israel, the concept of “making the desert bloom” was accepted long before anyone had coined the concept of “climate change.” As far back as the 1930's, David Ben-Gurion spoke of developing the Negev, and as time rolled on, it became a principal value of national importance. Research has shown that suitable ecological treatment in semi-arid areas can prevent soil erosion and stop desertification. This is demonstrated superbly in the Yatir Forest in the northern Negev, which is located on the edge of the desert in a semi-arid region, yet it has become the largest forest in Israel.

As a result of Israel’s cumulative experience in this field, many countries view Israel as a professional authority on central ecological issues, of which the primary ones are combating desertification and forest development. Researchers from around the world are very interested in the methods that Israel has developed for desert afforestation and agriculture, and KKL-JNF has held several international conferences on the subject in recent years.
Yatir, a forest in the desert. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

Over the years KKL-JNF has invested extensive resources in a broad ecological and environmental program to combat desertification and to upgrade degraded land:

  • KKL-JNF has constructed three LTER (long-term ecological research) monitoring stations that examine data such as carbon sequestration, development of tree species suitable to the particular environment (ecotyping), grazing interfaces and more.
  • KKL-JNF has developed agro-forestry and properly managing grazing lands by planting rows of individual trees along earthen ridges to capture surface runoff and encourage the growth of savanna-style steppe.
  • KKL-JNF has planted “Liman” tree clusters in banked-up water catchment depressions for shade and greenery.
  • KKL-JNF collaborates with the International Arid Lands Consortium, which includes the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service and six American universities, in advancing strategies for sustainable development of desert regions and distribution of the accumulated data on this subject to every interested country and agency.
Dudaim Forest, part of a green belt around Beersheva. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive