carmel - Hagai Frid - April 22 2011
New flowers bloom in the Carmel Forest amid the ashes of last December’s devastating fire. Photo by Hagai Frid
Text size

In the heart of the Carmel Forest, not far from where the bus carrying prison service cadets went up in flames in last December's devastating fire, stand two burned stumps of pine trees. Nearby, a cluster of cyclamens is blooming.

The sight symbolizes the dramatic process the area has undergone since the fire. Experts are not intervening in nature's impressive recovery, which can be seen in the blooming of a variety of wildflowers.

Instead of planting new trees, scientists are instead letting nature take its course, only cutting down a few trees that are about to fall, leaving behind remnants like the two stumps when they pose a safety risk to visitors.

A team of experts from the Jewish National Fund and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, put together by the Environmental Protection Ministry's chief scientist, Dr. Yeshayahu Bar-Or, is now completing its recommendations for rehabilitating the Carmel Forest.

The team's main recommendation is to let the forest recover naturally and to create fire breaks through vegetation near communities and roads. The group says the forest needs to be thinned out altogether. As a result, herds of goats are to be allowed to graze on a regular basis.

"We know people want to see the Carmel go back to what it used to be like, tomorrow," admitted Dr. Avi Prevolotzky of the Agriculture Ministry's science administration division, adding, "It's not easy to withstand the pressure on us to plant." Dr. Prevolotzky is heading the sub-committee for ecological rehabilitation.

While it will be green again, Prevolotzky says it will be a different kind of green: "We don't want those same dense, flammable pine trees, but rather, a forest with more varied scenery."

They will eventually begin systematically pulling up pine seedlings that were dispersed by the fire but for now, they won't be touching them, Prevolotzky states.

Meanwhile, nature is doing just what is expected of it after a fire. Persian buttercups and rock roses are blooming and woodland species of trees that survived the blaze unscathed are putting out new sprigs.

According to the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, many animals were killed in the blaze. But here, too, experts say animal life should be allowed to return on its own after plant life rejuvenates.

At the Hai-Bar Nature Reserve, Carmel, life has returned to normal. Raptors that were moved during the fire have been brought back, and according to Guy Alon, director of the authority's northern district, fire breaks around the reserve have already been created to protect the animals in case of future fires.