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Oak Trees go Higher Up  to Escape Man
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Oak Trees go Higher Up to Escape Man

Human intervention in Zagros region has forced oak trees to grow in the mountainous highlands, said Shirin Abolghasemi, manager of biodiversity conservation in the Central Zagros Landscape Project.
The trees have trouble growing downstream at the foothills of the mountains due to adverse impacts of human intervention. Normally the trees grow on mountain heights at 1000 meters, but at present the trees have gone higher up at levels of over 1200 meters.
In recent years, many pests including wood worm, bud-eating worm and the nigrescence process has threatened the trees and destroyed 20 percent of the oak trees.
Iran has 12 million hectares of forests, including 1.5 million in the northern part and 5.7 million hectares of Zagros oak forests in the west; the remaining are Arasbaran forests and mangroves on the southern coast.
In the past, 12 provinces were covered with forests from the Zagros range. But 1 million hectares have been destroyed in seven provinces in the last 4-5 years due to pests, disease and indiscriminate and excessive harvesting.
Also drying of the wetlands has resulted in the emergence of the “fine particles phenomenon” in western parts. The phenomenon has had adverse effects on reproduction of the trees. “Therefore protective measures should be taken to conserve the remaining living trees,” she stressed.
Abolghasemi also pointed to a local plan of ‘each school, one small garden’ which aims to develop the number of oak trees. Accordingly, each student is responsible for growing an oak seedling in a pot for a period of one year. So far, the plan has been implemented in 10 to 11 Zagros regions in cooperation with the education ministry and the Department of Environment (DoE).
“Oak is a slow-growing tree. Massive development projects have resulted in heavy tree losses. “The organizations responsible should be mandated to compensate the damages. In fact, they can plant trees around their project sites to compensate for the destruction,” she added.
 National Document
Abolghasemi also announced the presentation of the ‘national document’ on revival and conservation of the Zagros Forests, to the Supreme Council of Environment.
The document has been developed by the DoE, Forests, Rangeland and Watershed Organization (FRWO) and agricultural jihad and determines the strategies to combat the drying phenomenon and other problems of the forest range.
The conservation project puts responsibility on the energy ministry, agriculture jihad and FRWO to protect the forests for sustainable tourism along with the DoE, which is responsible for the forests’ protection.
According to the law, the national document should be reviewed and approved by the supreme environment council before the end of the calendar year (March 20, 2015). The approval of the national document will be effective for conservation of the forests and $2 million has been allocated for implementation of the plan. The document has considered both development and protective measures.
“We have decided to plant five oak seedlings for every dried up tree; at the same time we will implement appropriate watershed operations,” said Khodakaram Jalali, agriculture Jihad deputy minister and head of FRWO.
“Also the Zagros Forests exploitation system needs to be reformed to be compatible with the development of the forests,” Jalali asserted.  A 3-year memorandum of understanding (MoU) has been signed between agriculture jihad and Zagros region governors in this regard,” he said.
 Extended
The western oak forests along an approximate 1300 km length have been extended along the southern part of West Azarbaijan up to Fars Province.
The climate of the region is semi-arid Mediterranean with cold winters. The most significant plant species include Iranian oak, Quercus infectoria and Lebanon oak trees. Healthy oak trees grow to heights of 15 to 20 meters. Other plant species include Montpellier maple, Pistacia atlantica, Fraxinus excelsior, Pyrus communis, Hawthorns, Cercis siliquastrum and different kinds of almonds.
Zagros Forests are also home to many endangered species including the mouse-like hamster, Basra reed warbler, striped hyenas and also rare species of Persian Fallow Deer.

 

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