“Breathing plan”: a savior to old trees, endangered forests

TEHRAN – A plan, called “breathing”, that banned any wood exploitation in endangered forests, has halted the cutting down of at least 550,000 cubic meters of forests annually or completely stopped the process.

In January 2017 in line with the laws regulating all aspects of policymaking and project management with regard to environmental factors Majlis [Iranian parliament] prohibited any exploitation of endangered forest by the fourth year of implementing the sixth five-year national development plan (2016-2021).

According to the law, the exploitation of forests for commercial and industrial purposes was planned to be brought to a halt by 2020. By that time all exploitation contracts have been expired and none has been renewed.

Since the 1330s (1950s), there has been a total of 18 million hectares of forest in the country, which today has decreased to 12 million hectares. Annually, 550,000 cubic meters of forests were harvested from the northern forests before the implementation of the plan, which was equal to about one-thirteenth of the needs of the country’s industry, which has now been greatly reduced or completely stopped.

Natural habitat forests are useful, which according to the United Nations definition, forests provide more than 33 types of non-tradable services (that cannot be easily valued in the world economic system).

One of the most important services that forests provide to ecosystems is the production of oxygen. The next service is carbon sequestration, climate change adaptation, and increasing the air heat capacity, which reduces the temperature difference between day and night, thus reducing the crops’ water consumption.

Forests are the most important factor for the reproduction of biodiversity, which is the most important source of food supply for wildlife and maintaining the quality of the ecosystem.

According to forest experts, dense and quality forests store about 2500 cubic meters of water per hectare, so northern forests of the country are able to store 3.6 billion cubic meters of water annually.

Unfortunately, forests have been taken for granted in the country, as 6 million hectares of forests have been depleted since the 1330s (1950s) when there has been a total of 18 million hectares of forest, which today has decreased to 12 million hectares.

Currently, 1.6 million hectares of the northern forests remain in the country, which was 3.5 million hectares in the 1330s, so 2 million hectares of forest areas have undergone deforestation.

Half of the existing Hyrcanian forests are also deforested. In the Zagros, 30 percent of the forests have been exposed to complete depletion and we have lost 15 million oaks in the last two decades.

Iran’s forest area is approximately 12 million hectares with 0.2 hectares per capita, which is one-quarter of the world average, so attention to preserving the forest areas must be four times the global attention.

The implementation of the forest breathing plan has definitely had an effect on improving the condition of the country’s forests. Before that, thousands of trucks were logging timber from forest areas, which had started two years ago, amounting to two million cubic meters per year, which decreased to 500,000 to 600,000 cubic meters in recent years, Hadi Kia Daliri, secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity explained.

It also caused the economic view to wood production changes to consider ecology and ecosystem, he added.

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