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Habitat: Quercus calliprinos woodland on limestone
Ecozone: Central highlands
Area handed over: 50 dunums
IUCN Criteria: I- Strict Nature Reserve
Land owner: Government
Governorate: Hebron Governorate
Phytogeographical Regions: Mediterranean Sea
Annual rainfall: 500-600 mm
Soil: Rendzina, pale Rendzina
Nearby village: Al-Arroub Camp, Beit Ommar
When we talk about flora and fauna diversity in the West Bank, we cannot ignore the Al-Qarn reserve in Hebron governorate, a natural oak forest with an area of 600 dunams.
The location of this reserve is easily reachable and for everyone enjoyable in the dense shadows of trees and shrubs in the summer days. The temperatures are relatively cool in this area during the winter, whereas it is moderate during the summer. Besides that, the humidity is low in the summer months, which makes this region perfect for many visitors during this time of the year.
Al-Qarn reserve is located in the southern part of the West Bank, it is north of the city of Hebron and surrounded by Palestinian villages, such as Beit Ommar and the Al-Arroub Refugee Camp. The forest is located in a region dominated by the Mediterranean ecosystem, it is also considered as the only natural forest in Hebron. The territory of the forest is part of the Area (c) under the Israeli sovereignty, with supervision and administration of the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture.
The major trees in the forest are oaks and maples (Greek strawberry), Atlantic pistachio, hawthorn, medical styrax, wild pear and some planted pines. It is also a habitat for wild animals such as foxes, Jackals, hyenas, hedgehogs, rodents and many kinds of birds, insects and worms.
Al-Qarn Forest was used mainly for timber cutting. However, about 70% of the pine trees were removed in the forest after the Palestinian uprising (2nd Intifada). An increase of unemployment and poverty followed, which led to this unjust misuse from Palestinians.
The forest and the land have several areas: green areas, rocky areas and woodlands interspersed with passages, which can be used by visitors. From time to time, research centers and universities, as well as individuals organize visits to the study of biodiversity of this area.
Al-Qarn reserve speaks for itself and the visitors can enjoy the real beauty of Palestinian nature. There is a large biodiversity of animals and birds that benefit from the vegetation of the reserve. The animals also benefit from the pleasant climate it has.
The growth of the forest trees is over a distance of 2 kilometers and the rainfall rate is 670mm per year. Due to the fresh air blowing over the region in the summer, it makes it an ideal habitat for animals. Unfortunately, it is often abused through hunting and fishing.
According to researches, a big growth in the vegetation of the area occurred in the early seventies, but with the beginning of the second decade of the third millennium tree cutting occurred which had a negative impact on the vegetation.
Nevertheless, it is a good place for visitors. One can easily travel through the villages which are surrounding the reserve from different directions. Besides that, there are many places that can be visited in the reserve and in the city of Hebron. Visitors can take a rest in the Al-Arroub area and enjoy the restaurants and lounges that are linking the region to the city of Hebron.
Use of natural resources and ecosystem services
Al-Qarn is an important grazing area with high livestock numbers in surrounding communities and households who use bible hyssop and common mallow. Besides that, the neighboring villages are not considered as very attractive due to the lack of water and the limited access to roads. An additional fact: The amount of wood fuel consumption is up to 20% in the neighboring communities.
Pressures and threats
Al-Qarn is perhaps the most threatened nature reserve in Palestine. Visits to the site revealed widespread traces of logging, waste disposal, conversion to agricultural land (possibly for construction), and most importantly destruction of vegetation cover for illegal excavations. These excavations are made by commercial diggers who dig for archaeological artefacts (mainly historic coins) which are then sold.
Several facts contribute to the high pressure out on Al-Qarn: Al-Qarn is relatively small, easy to access and in addition to that, it is situated in a relatively densely populated area.
Greek strawberry tree
Styrax, Pine treePalestine oak , Mastic, Carob Tree, Palestine buckthorn, Officinal storax, Terebinth Tree, Eastern strawberry tree, Atlantic Pistachio, Spiny Hawthorn
Prasium, Dominica sage, Winter crocus, Common corn-cockle, LupineChamomile, Tulip, Crocus, Poppy anemone, Persian cyclamen, Common narcissus, Pink rockrose
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