Permanent Monitoring Plots
In order to monitor the evolution of the plants in the afforestation areas, we have established different permanent monitoring plots. Monitoring plots are fixed square areas of 10 by 10 meters. In it, a few parameters are examined such as the amount of surviving plants. In addition, 9 individual trees within the square will be measured and followed closely, e.g. trunk diameter, height, etc.
These monitoring areas will be permanent to track the evolution of the forest over time.
We have established three in Shirakamut and two in Jrashen. Each is either on a plot with a different orientation or at a different altitude.
Fencing in Jrashen
In May, we finished fencing the Jrashen I afforestation area. One needs to be on the ground here and walking on the steep hills to appreciate the sheer size of what a 110 hectares plot looks like. It is simply huge! The team of young men who finally did the work, did a great job. They put about 1.000 poles on a distance of 4.000 metres, going sometimes through difficult terrain with gorges and steep hills. This work is essential as this area is widely used by cow and sheep herders. Only the top part of the mountain still needs to be done but at 2200 meter altitude there is probably no grazing activity. We are planning to complete the work anyway.
Mulch in the Afforestation Areas
In order to help the young seedlings survive the strong summer and intense heat, we have started mid-june to put mulch around each plant in both Shirakamut and Jrashen. Mulch is important as it slows the drying process and keeps moisture in the soil for the young plants to develop. It also prevents weeds from growing and competing with the saplings. We are using hay for this purpose and bought two truckloads of about 400 bales to cover all the plants.
Dry conditions in Shirakamut and our initiatives
On June 29th, we visited our two afforestation areas, Shirakamut and Jrashen. In the first one the situation was dire. It has been exceptionally warm, with temperatures climbing up to 27° at 2000 m altitude and no rain for three weeks. This has never occurred during the month of June. Sadly our plants are dying by the thousands. In all afforestation projects the survival rate varies between 60 and 70%, but the heat and lack of water has created ravages, less than 50% are alive.
Luckily, there is a canal running just below our reforestation area. So we bought two powerful pumps and about 3.000 meters of tubing plus 8 hoses of 50 meters. The next day we were able to start watering already. We will leave the tubes in place and hire 8 workers for two months to continually water each plant. In one week they should be able to water each sapling once in the 30 ha field. Let’s hope that we will be able to save as many saplings as possible. At any rate, we will replace all dead seedlings with pine trees next April. Pine trees have a double advantage: they are more resistant to dryness and grow quickly, thereby creating some shade for deciduous trees.
In Jrashen, the situation was much better. The soil has a higher moisture content and the saplings are doing well. All plants are covered with mulch and it is clearly helping. It is just as well because in Jrashen, there are no canal or rivers nearby, so let’s keep our fingers crossed.
Needless to say this raises big alarm bells for reforestation activities all over the world. With the climate crisis causing increased heating, our future ability to create new forests will be imperiled. We will need to think of ways to overcome the first couple of years of dryness until trees take roots. At any rate, it is urgent to take action now and plant as many trees and forests as possible. In the future, we may discover that we may be too late. So help us plant a big amount of trees now, we will do whatever it takes to ensure they grow into mature trees and durable forests in the future.
We have made ours the motto of Wilhelm of Orange, king of the Netherlands in the XVI century (original in French) “Il n’est pas nécéssaire d’espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer!” in English ” It is not necessary to hope in order to undertake, nor to succeed to persevere!”