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The significance of dense sclerophyllous oak forests in the landscapes of northern Israel and their ecological values: An unconventional viewpoint

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image of Israel Journal of Plant Sciences

The significance of the dense sclerophyllous oak forests (DSOFs) in the vegetal landscape of the southeastern Mediterranean is addressed through a case study of the Carmel region (Israel), where most traditional land uses have declined in the past 50 years. A GIS-assisted analysis of the vegetation cover shows that the proportion of DSOFs in the vegetal landscape of the Carmel area is very restricted (8%) compared with their present significance in vegetal landscapes of the northwestern Mediterranean. The potential development of DSOFs in future decades in the Levant is considered. The drought constraint, the persistence of some traditional land-use practices, and the increasing population density suggest that the proportion of DSOFs in the vegetal landscape will not increase significantly in the region considered.The ecological values of DSOFs are discussed. Although these formations are generally considered to be of very low interest due to their low plant species richness, they nevertheless do present numerous ecological values: They are less fire-prone than other woody vegetation types. They protect the soil top layers from erosion. Their invasibility is very low. Finally, when undisturbed, they may represent a relatively advanced stage of forest dynamics and therefore, theoretically, enable the emergence of mature forests which may harbor forest-dwelling species. It is suggested that the ecological value of DSOFs should be determined after all these aspects are considered, and not based solely on the plant richness criterion.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography, the Liphschitz College for Academic Studies jmdd@netvision.net.il ; 2: Department of Agronomy and Natural Resources, Institute of Field Crops, Agriculture Research Organization, The Volcani Center ; 3: Centre Biogéographie-Ecologie, Institut Européen de Développement Durable

10.1560/EMAB-JDM8-FDF9-XAPQ
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2005-05-13
2018-06-21

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