By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN – The Aleppo pines in the Dibbeen Forest Reserve are recovering faster than expected from a wildfire that destroyed thousands of trees, according to conservationists.

A recent study released by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) revealed that the rate of Aleppo pine trees’ natural regeneration reached 175 seedlings per dunum, a very high growth rate compared to nearby sites which also witnessed wildfires in 2008.

Around 100 dunums covered with over 5,670 trees, mainly Aleppo pines, were damaged in a wildfire that erupted in Al Jabal Al Aqra area in the Dibbeen Forest Reserve, which represents the world’s last remaining southeastern community of Aleppo pines.

“After the fire, it was vital to carry out a detailed study showing the rate of natural regeneration of pistachio trees and other plants at the reserve,” Loay Azzam, ecologist at Dibbeen Forest Reserve, told The Jordan Times over the phone on Thursday.

A similar study for adjacent sites which were also affected by the blaze recorded only 25 seedlings per dunum, compared to the average Aleppo pine rate of 200-300 seedlings per dunum.

“Fires and drought are the main threats jeopardising the renewal of Aleppo pine trees, which rely on their seeds for natural regeneration,” Azzam pointed out.

The study recommended carrying out annual surveys in Dibbeen to follow up on the natural regeneration of Aleppo pines.

The Dibbeen Forest Reserve, situated in the northern Governorate of Jerash, was established in 2004 with the aim of protecting Aleppo pine trees, particularly as Dibbeen is the driest part of the world in which Aleppo pines grow naturally, with an average rainfall of around 400mm per year, according to the RSCN.

The Dibbeen Forest is home to at least 17 threatened species, including the Persian squirrel, in addition to over a quarter of butterfly species that exist in the Kingdom. It extends over 8.5 square kilometres of mountainous topography, rich with pine and oak trees.