Nature Preservation of Palestine
By: Ruqyah Sweidan/Arab America Contributing Writer
The preservation of Palestinian culture, sovereignty, and land is a constant struggle. It is a life-long mission ingrained in the hearts of Palestinians. Despite the efforts of other powers to erase them, they continue to build and record their history. The occupation targets all aspects of Palestinian life, including their physical landscape.
Palestinian environmental sovereignty and study are essential to cultural preservation. Moreover, these rightful pursuits are in the documentation of the land’s rich biodiversity. Such projects even contribute to the fight against climate change. This article will address the noble work and accomplishments of different Palestinian organizations and schools in the preservation of their nature and animals.
The National Emblem of Palestine
The Palestine Wildlife Society (PWS) is one such example. A signatory of the International Convention for the Protection of Birds, PWS has several local accomplishments. For instance, in 2017, they successfully petitioned the Palestinian President and Prime Minister to officially announce the Palestine Sunbird as the national bird of Palestine. This was in defiance of a major Israeli international campaign to change the name of the bird. The Palestine sunbird is now registered with other international entities.
The scientific name of the Palestine Sunbird is Nectarinia Osea. The bird has blue, green, orange, black, and purple colors, moves quickly, and feeds on the nectar of roses. In celebration of the inauguration of the bird, the PWS and the Palestinian Ministry of Education, organized nationwide photography and writing competition for school students on the Palestine Sunbird. The winners were honored in a community ceremony. Including students in this national achievement is pivotal for their confidence, spirit, and sense of identity.
Studying the Eco-System
Finding ways around the restrictions imposed by occupation policies, the PWS continues mapping the natural features of the Palestinian ecosystem. Based on the topography and climate variation, the Palestinian territories are divided into five distinctive regions, each supported by fertile soil, rainfall, or historical irrigation systems:
The Jordan Valley Region
The soil is sandy and calcareous. The region grows off-season vegetables and semi-tropical fruit trees like bananas and citrus. Natural plants are mainly Ziziphus spina_christi, Acacia raddiana, Acacia birtilis, Tamarix galica, and Atriplex halimus.
The Eastern Slopes Region
The regions extend along the eastern side of the West Bank, east of Jenin in the north to eastern hills of Hebron district in the south. The climate is semi-dry with low annual rainfall. Dominant soils are the grey calcareous steppe soils and alluvial soil in valleys and plains. This area is used mainly for grazing sheep and goats. Natural plants include some trees and shrubs, including Thymus capitatus; i.e. Za’atar!
The Central Highlands Region
The region is mountainous with some areas exceeding an elevation of 1 KM above sea level. Soils in the valleys between the hills and mountains are alluvial soils. In the mountains, the dominant soils are Terra-Rosa soils and Rendzina soils on the eastern and southern slopes. Natural plants include Aleppo Pine forest and the Maquis Evergreen Oak forest. Unfortunately, all these forests were destroyed. Only scattered trees remain.
Of the total agricultural area, olives and grapes predominate, and with almonds and fruit trees occupying 60% of the area. Winter cereals, grain legumes etc., are cultivated on 35% of the area. Vegetables are the main crops in the remaining 5% of the area.
The Semi-coastal region
The extension of the Palestinian Mediterranean Coastal region is limited to the northwestern part of the West Bank. It comprises parts of Jenin and Tulkarem. Much of the soils are alluvial heavy terra-rosa.
Over half of the cultivated area is irrigated or receives supplementary irrigation, growing citrus, other fruit trees, potatoes, cauliflower, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes and other vegetables. The rain-fed area grows fruit trees, but mainly rain-fed wheat, barley and grain legumes.
The Coastal region (Gaza)
Sand dunes and concentrated in the coastal belt in the western part of the territory. A considerable area of such soil has been reclaimed for cultivation of citrus and vegetables. Loess soil is mostly present in the eastern part. The soil is deep and used for fruit and vegetable cultivation. Alluvial soils of the Wadi’s form a limited area in the northeastern part. This is a productive area used mainly for fruit, field crops and the cultivation of vegetables.
Furthermore, the Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability (PIBS) and the Palestine Museum of Natural History (PMNH) are the top research and educational entities that conserve the Palestinian natural world. The two schools use their data to promote responsible human interactions with the environment, record the fauna, flora, and human ethnography of Palestine and promote environmental protection. These initiatives are essential in promoting sustainability in the marginalized communities of Palestine. With it, they maintain that the culture and heritage are protected.
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