Many scientists have recognized a huge decline in quality and quantity aspects of Iran forests. A discourse analysis also shows it as a dramatically decrease, for example, 60% of the forests have been destroyed or severely degraded. What are problems, challenges, opportunities and solutions? What is going to happen for the forests, a disappearing, when we know Iran is a Low Forest Cover Country, based on UN and FAO definitions? Is there any way of Iran forests decline towards expansion?
Iran is a large country of diverse climates, terrains, flora, and fauna. Rainfall in Iran is only one-third of the global average and evaporation is 20% greater than the global average. Despite the fact that 85% of the country is semi-arid or arid, Iran is well known as one of the world's major centers of biodiversity and natural heritage, because of the junction of five major phytogeographical regions: Hyrcanian (Caspian), Arasbaran, Irano-Touranian, Zagrosian, and Khalijo-Omanian.
Iran has 4.5 percent forest cover and 4.5 percent other wooded land. A historically review reveals that Iran had near to 90 million ha forests in 2000 years ago, then 18 in twenty century, later 12 and now has only 7.3 million ha. This loss raises many questions of “Why happened” when we recognize that forest management in Iran has started since 1905; almost all forests have been nominated as governmental since 1924, and as national since 1962; and forest utilization has been limited only via forestry plans since 1959. A significant need to develop and conserve forests is highlighted also when comparing this 0.17 ha forest per capital with the global average of 0.62 ha.
Because of its long geobotanical history, Iran forests are among the oldest forests in Asia and the northern hemisphere, and especially the Hyrcanian forests are one of the last remnants of natural deciduous forests in the world. Rich diversities of species and natures of Iran forests attract many botanists, biologists, foresters, and other researchers and ecotourists from around the world. Nonetheless, the forests of Iran are threatened by a combination of many factors including habitat loss and fragmentation, overpopulation and overconsumption, overexploitation, socioeconomic problems and policy failures, weak government structure, policy, and legislation, dams, mismanagement, forests-other organizations’ conflicts, forests-people conflict, low morale, invasive species, pollution, climate change, inadequate funds, and classical forestry. As a result, Iran forests continue to be lost and the ecosystem services are increasingly being disturbed.
Forest management is an interdisciplinary conservation. It requires the consideration of forests and people as an intricate system, and also many factors and their relationships. Iran forest policy requires a gradual transition to a more balanced and environmentally aware approach to resources management. It needs an environmental, economic and social policy to prepare an Integrated Approach Forest Management, to establish a novel framework for multiple-use forest management, to issue guidelines for integrating natural resources in adaptation planning, to launch an updated data and information center, to increase citizen participation in decision-makings, to reduce the conjunction pressures arising from different land uses, to consider necessary biodiversity conservation policy and regulatory mechanisms into land use plans and forestry sector policies, regulations and practices, and to ensure improvement of biodiversity and natural resources across the whole forest landscapes in Iran.
Iran classical forestry fails to win the support of rural communities and poses a serious economic and environmental threat. Therefore, Iran’s rural inhabitants find very little motivation to support government forestry conservation and restoration programs. To forest recovery, it is necessary to have a “transition period” (a period of recovery to a new stable equilibrium, from a period of net forest area loss (deforestation) to a period of net forest area gain) for at least 10 years which aims not to cut any tree but preserves and manages forests and woodlands and extents by means of spontaneous regeneration, active planting, or both. During this period, the government and experts have time to restructure related organizations for establishing a minister, assess natural resources conditions especially forests, prepare broad objectives and guiding principles, plan new integrated policies and programs, and move for community forestry. It seems that the growing strength of nontimber interest groups could help to foster these changes and then, social capital of environmental and natural resources issues will grow.
PhD, Independent Environmental Social Researcher, Tehran, Iran; CEESP member