Climate change has exacerbated the forests’ struggle with wildfires and unleashed a swarm of woodworms on around 1,000 hectares
About 1 million hectares of the ecologically-rich Zagros Forests have been lost to climate change, the deputy head of the Forests, Range and Watershed Management Organization said.
Speaking at the High-Level Climate Change Conference in Tehran on Sunday, Nasser Moqaddasi pointed to Iran’s poor forest cover and said, “What little vegetation we have is susceptible to climatic changes,” ISNA reported.
He said years of consecutive drought driven by climate change in the past 10 years have taken a toll on the Zagros Forests, reducing their size by a million hectares.
“Trees become weak and diseased easily,” Moqaddasi added. Forests cover 14 million hectares of Iran—less than 10% of the land area—which is relatively small compared to the global average but a blessing. The official said wildfires, which afflict large areas of Iran’s forestlands every summer, are also exacerbated by the planet’s continued warming.
Covering large swathes of western and southwestern Iran, the oak-rich Zagros forests are precious resources threatened by a variety of factors, including drought and high concentration of particulate matter, not to mention rampant logging by locals in need of fuel and smugglers looking for a fast buck.
Reports emerged last year that perpetual drought and recurring dust storms have further weakened the oak trees, rendering them susceptible to woodworms, which have caused the death of countless trees by boring holes in their trunks and preventing growth.
The trees are afflicted by the larval of a species of woodboring beetle belonging to the Sphenopetra family.
Most of the damage has been observed in Chaharmahal-Bakhtiari Province, a heavily-wooded region in southwest Iran where about 1,000 hectares of woodland have succumbed to woodworms.
The Zagros Mountains forest steppe region is located primarily in Iran, ranging northwest to southeast and roughly paralleling the country’s western border. In addition to a diversified flora, the steppe supports oak-dominant deciduous forests as well as pistachio and almond forests.
A wide variety of wildlife, including wolves, leopards and even the Persian fallow deer that were once thought extinct, have made their homes in the mountains.