Jan. 27 - Professional Israeli climbers have been drafted into action to help conserve their country's flora and fauna. For conservationists, it's a back-to-basics approach in their mission to keep the country green and Israeli bees buzzing. Jim Drury reports.
It's a hobby for many, but these Jewish National Fund climbers are on a serious mission. They're a team of environmentalists whose job is to collect seeds from the top of trees for planting and targeted reforestation. This is where the best quality seeds can be found, although according to Israel's director of forestry Aviv Eizenband, the work has to be done by hand. SOUNDBITE (English) AVIV EIZENBAND, DIRECTOR OF FORESTRY AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN KKL-JNF FOREST SERVICE, SAYING: "Because we have to collect the fruits when they are ripened but closed and the fact that they are up there in the most outer part of the canopy, which is up there, so we have to get there and collect them there. Because if we leave them on the trees they will open and spread the seeds so this won't help us." Seed collection elsewhere usually involves expensive heavy machinery, not always suitable for wild forests. The team believes their back-to-basics approach is better. The seed collectors seek out more than 250 species from the tops of conifers, eucalyptus, and Casuarina trees at 2,000 locations across Israel. They collect five tonnes of seeds per year, around a third of which are then planted, strengthening forests and increasing wood supplies. Some seeds are naturally poor germinators. Boosting their chances of proliferating for forest conservation, gives climbers like Dror Tayeb plenty of job satisfaction. SOUNDBITE (English) CLIMBER DROR TAYEB SAYING: "This job is important for me because it's a mission and they want it what to make all the country green." The seeds are taken to a processing centre where they're counted and weighed. They're then kept at a temperature of four degrees Celsius before being distributed to nurseries. The seeding program has an additional ecological benefit. SOUNDBITE (English) AVIV EIZENBAND, DIRECTOR OF FORESTRY AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN KKL-JNF FOREST SERVICE, SAYING: "We grow a lot of species that will produce a lot of nectar and apart from helping those honey breeders, we are helping the bee colonies to be able to collect nectar, because you know these days the whole world gets the affect of the CCD, the Colony Collapse Disorder." Indeed, Colony Collapse Disorder has been reported across the US and Europe with populations dying en masse without explanation. Eizenband hopes that at least part of the answer for the bees - and the region's endangered forests - can be found high above the ground.