‘Comprehensive protection’ essential need of Golestan forest

November 6, 2021 - 16:35

TEHRAN – About 3,500 hectares of unique forest reserves in northern Golestan province, as the most important habitats in the country, are facing the challenges of lack of funds, illegal logging, and inadequacy of related laws and regulations, which are expected to be resolved by protection plans.

Golestan province is covered with about 453,000 hectares of forests. Four protected areas of Golestan National Park, Jahan Nama, Afratakhteh, and Abr forest were included in the World Heritage List as part of the Hyrcanian forests with the approval of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Forest reserves as a gene bank need comprehensive protection and support, of the total tree species in the forest reserves of Golestan, four species of Junipers, Taxus baccata, Thuja and Mediterranean cypress are endemic to the Hyrcan, that some of which date back to more than 4,000 years, and are important for medicinal purposes, in addition to protecting soil and water and preventing erosion.

Abdolrahim Lotfi, director of natural resources and watershed management of Golestan said that there are 15 biosphere reserves in the province. Normally, multi-layer protection of Golestan forest reserves is being implemented and land transfer is strictly prohibited and no license will be issued for development and tourism projects under any title.

Golestan province is covered with about 453,000 hectares of forests.In these forests, fencing operations have been carried out to increase the conservation and protection of genetic reserves, and we need additional funds to complete the enclosure, he added.

Reducing or cutting the credits of this sector has increased the vulnerability of these areas and threats such as cutting down trees and fires have increased, he emphasized, IRNA reported on Saturday.

Procurement of seeds and propagation of seedlings from these areas with the aim of preserving species compatible with the nature of Golestan and even exporting these seeds and seedlings to other provinces are among the programs that will be implemented if funding is provided, he explained.

Although Hyrcanian forests benefit from about 80 species of trees and 50 species of shrubs, some of these species in the form of unique habitats should be further protected.

While large masses of Taxus baccata forests in the world have been destroyed, but Afratakhteh and Pooneh Aram area located in Aliabad Katoul forests, as one of the best pure habitats, remained pristine in the world and Golestan province.

The protection of forest reserves, according to experts, requires the more serious determination and will of the country's top managers to pass these valuable treasures to future generations by allocating sufficient funds.

Dependence of locals’ livelihoods on activities incompatible with forest protection such as livestock, agriculture, fuel supply, and land-use changes along with other concerns such as inadequacy of relevant laws and regulations and lack of enforcement of existing laws, lack of attention to environmental consequences, and implementation of development plans are factors that affect these valuable treasures.

Forest reserves

Forest reserves are small biosphere reserves in which unique, rare, or endangered species live. These areas also have trees and shrubs of high genetic value.

Accordingly, the most desirable way to preserve these species is to protect them in their natural habitats. Therefore, the management of forest reserves with the process of identification, delimitation, and preparation of conservation plans is among the important measures that should be on the agenda.

The Forest Organization has reported that from 1993 to 2020, a total of 347 forest reserves with an area of over 409,000 hectares were registered, but last year 182 forest reserves with an area of 410,000 hectares were identified, which has grown by 107 percent.

Iran's biosphere reserves

Iran is a vast country with a wide range of biodiversity and natural resources, with 13 biosphere reserves named Golestan, Miankaleh, Arasbaran, Urmia, Arjan and Parishan, Geno, Hara, Hamoon, Dena, Tange Sayad, Sabzkooh, Turan, Kavir and Kopet Dagh has been registered in the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Program.

Biosphere reserves include terrestrial, marine, and coastal ecosystems. Each site promotes solutions reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. There are currently 714 biosphere reserves in 129 countries, including 21 transboundary sites.

The Golestan Biosphere Reserve is located in the north of Iran and forms part of the Caucaso-Iranian highlands, situated between the sub-humid and semi-arid Caspian regions. A wide variety of habitats and rich biodiversity can be found in the reserve, including 150 bird species, 54 species of reptiles and amphibians, 8 species of huge carnivores such as the leopard and brown bear, and more than 1,366 plant species.

Dena Biosphere Reserve is located in the Central Zagros Mountains of Iran, with a general slope of more than 60 percent. Dena is also home to a vast range of plant species and several endangered and endemic mammal species. Oak species dominate the highlands, while pistachio and almond are common at lower elevations.

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