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If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it: The ecological effects of afforestation in the Northern Negev

26/01/2015

Last year, SPNI published a report  that examines the ecological effects of afforestation in the Northern Negev. The report argues that the large extent of afforestation activities poses a significant threat to the natural habitats and biodiversity of the region.  

 

 

 

The Northern Negev is far from being a barren desert. The region’s extensive grasslands and shrubs that bloom during winter and spring support a unique ecosystem with several endemic and endangered species. Historically, native trees, such as acacias, were scarce and only found in tributaries.

 

Afforestation activities involve extensive earthworks, using heavy machinery that clears native vegetation and destroys the top soil. In addition, the heavy use of herbicides, coupled with lower light penetration in mature forests, prevents the growth of native plants. Finally, afforestation activities have changed the flat landscape to one with vertical structures, affecting species such as ground nesting birds and endemic reptiles that become more vulnerable to predation from raptors using the trees as vantage points.

 

In recent years, KKL has increased its afforestation efforts in the region. Currently, 70% of KKL’s afforestation activities occur in the Southern regions of Israel. In the Northern Negev 1,600 hectares were cleared in 2010 alone for planting trees, that is the equivalent to over 1,000 football fields.

 

SPNI's report, together with recent studies, raise major doubts regarding the sustainability of tree planting in this arid region, and indicate that it is harmful to soil preservation. 23 scientists from leading Israeli and international universities expressed their support for the position of SPNI and called for a strategic assessment of the Northern Negev regions to examine the ecological implications of afforestation. Click here  to read the letter. Furthermore, the State Comptroller has addressed the issue in his May 2014 report, where he called to rethink afforestation in the Negev due to its ecological impacts. Similarly, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority board has called to stop current afforestation activities in the northern Negev, and to establish alternative ways of managing this area (Resolution, April 2014).

 

SPNI aims to encourage an open public debate about the environmental impacts of afforestation activities in the Northern Negev. Help us raise awareness by sharing our infographic: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it <<