The Northern Negev loess plains and steppe shrublands are two of the rarest and most threatened habitats in Israel. An SPNI report and petition signed by respected scientists put together the case for their conservation. The report explains that, these habitats are underrepresented in nature reserves and national parks (only 4% are protected), and yet support unique biodiversity including threatened Red List species (e.g. Coleman Garlic, Allium kollmannianum), and endemic species (e.g. Beersheba Fringe-fingered Lizard, Acanthodactylus beershebensis and Dark – Brown Iris, Iris atrofusca).
The irony here is that biodiversity loss is caused by a large scale, public funded afforestation scheme – of the type that can easily be mispresented for ecological restoration. But planting trees where they don’t belong is not a great idea from any point of view – ecological, economic and aestatic.
What appears when steppes are ploughed and buldozed to yield space for tree plantations is not and will never be a proper forest, let alone biodiversity haven. The northern Negev and southern Hebron Hills are located within a transition zone between the Mediterranean and desert climates that are too dry to support trees.
Various claims, arising at times from the proponents of Negev afforestation, attempt to justify afforestation on the basis of “ecosystem services approach” whereby forest plantations will retain carbon and water and will provide habitat for species. The SPNI report also discusses the implications of converting natural open habitat into forest in terms of ecosystem services.
The conclusions are that the negative consequences of this afforestation scheme on biodiversity greatly dominate over the claimed benefits. So what’s the point of trying to fix something that ain’t broken?