‘Worst yet to come’ to Kingdom’s forests after snow, conservationists warn

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

AMMAN — Two months after the strongest snowstorm in over a decade hit the country, conservationists announced on Wednesday that one-third of the Kingdom’s forests were damaged, warning that the worst is yet to come.

After more than 20,000 trees were uprooted and hundreds of thousands of branches were broken due to the heavy snow, conservationists said the Kingdom’s forests are “now heading towards an environmental catastrophe”.

“The forests witnessed so much damage after the snowstorm. Unfortunately, its impact will linger for years to come…” Director of the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) Yehya Khaled said at a press conference.

In Ajloun Forest Reserve, which extends over 12,000 dunums in Ajloun Governorate, 70km northwest of the capital, a total of 1,047 trees, making up 20 per cent of the reserve’s green cover, were broken, its director, Nasser Abbasi, said.

“So many trees were broken, and this is a loss by itself, but now the forest ground is blanketed with fallen branches,” Abbasi told reporters.

“If the branches are not removed before the picnicking season starts in April, Ajloun will this summer witness a great number of wildfires, which will eliminate what remains,” he warned.

Meanwhile, in Dibbeen Nature Reserve, located in Jerash Governorate, 48 kilometres north of Amman, the volume of damage was higher.

More than 12,237 forest trees were uprooted in Dibbeen, according to Dibbeen Nature Reserve Director Bashir Ayasrah, who added that the number of trees with broken branches is estimated at hundreds of thousands.

“A total of 85 per cent of the uprooted trees were Aleppo pines, whose roots spread horizontally, making them susceptible to uprooting,” Ayasrah said at the conference, organised by the RSCN.

All of the conservationists called for organising a nationwide voluntary campaign to remove the fallen trees and branches, followed by another national effort to plant trees to replace the damaged and uprooted ones.

Eid Zu’bi, director of the Agriculture Ministry’s forestry department, told reporters that scores of labourers will be appointed on March 1 and will be working across the governorates to remove fallen branches.

“However, no matter how many labourers we appoint, removing fallen branches is an effort that we cannot complete alone; we need everyone’s help,” Zu’bi said.

He added that the forestry department launched a plan for planting trees that can stand harsh weather conditions, noting that deciduous trees withstand the impact of snow.

The snowstorm was not the only a threat to the country’s forests during this winter, according to the conservationists, who highlighted that illegal logging increased following the snowstorm.

Illegal logging during winter, fires during summer and insufficient rain due to climate change are the main threats to Jordan’s shrinking green cover, according to experts, who said that forests occupy less than 1 per cent of Jordan’s terrain.