The planting of tens of thousands of olive trees in arid areas in Israel have proved highly beneficial, according to a study which said the trees provide shade for animals, purge the air and even produce excellent olive oil.
The study was conducted by the Faculty of Agriculture at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, with the help of the Agricultural Research Organization. Dr. Zohar Kerem, head of the olive oil research lab in the faculty’s biochemistry institute, who participated in the study, explained that they followed tree-plantings in Israel’s desert areas.
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“Olive trees are not very picky,” Kerem said, adding that they can thrive under extreme weather conditions and require very little care and water. Olive trees, he noted, greatly benefit the environment by reducing the atmospheric levels of CO2.
The trees also provide shade and cover for wildlife. In the area surveyed deer, porcupines, rodents and reptiles were seen; and bird numbers have also grown – an important finding considering Israel is a nexus for millions of migratory birds every year.
Some researchers disagree about the environmental benefits of planting trees in arid areas, claiming it leads to a change in the natural fabric and local wildlife. But Kerem disagreed: “It’s a golden measure. Even though it’s agriculture, the area remains intact.”
His views are supported by Dr. Adi Naali an agronomist with the Plants Production and Marketing Board. Naali said that the trees provide good shelter for animals since they do not require pesticides or other human care.