Environmental challenges facing our planet are unprecedented and facing them requires global efforts. These challenges are compounded in developing countries because of economic, education, and political issues. Palestine is unique in its position geographicaly at intersection of continents. This is combined with the geologic history due to tectonic plate movements that created the great rift valley (with the lowest point on earth at the Dead Sea) and a series of mountains from the Galilee to the Hebron mountains creating a very rich biodiversity for a very small area. Yet, Palestine was subjected to decades of de-development, lack of Palestinian sovereignty over natural resources, and politics . Significant demographic shifts developed in the past several decades of Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Habitat destruction and environmental declines are notable [see research papers on this under the research tab]. But the question remains is there little to be done on the environmental and science front while we wait for the political situation to get resolved?
PIBS focuses on environmental conservation after doing the appropriate research and engaging in education that build capacity for conservation. PMNH/PIBS launched an Environmental Assessment Unit with oversight by experts like Prof. Mazin Qumsiyeh ((BU) and Prof. Zuhair Amr (Jordan) and with collaboration and consultation with the Environmental Quality Authority (EQA) and key stakeholders (Ministry of Education, local authorities, farmers, environmentalists and more).
For details on Conservation issues in Palestine we (MB Qumsiyeh and ZS Amr edited by Hans Seidel Foundation) published a report titled “Environmental Conservation and Protected Areas in Palestine: Challenges and Opportunities” (2017, available here ).
CONSERVATION PROJECTS AT PIBS/PMNH-BU:
- Models of Sustainability at Bethlehem University. Funded by Canada Fund for Local Initiatives comleted 2017
- Empowering Youth in Environmental Stewardship. Funded by US Consulate, completed 2017
- Wadi Al-Quff protected area biodiversity and management plan (cooperation with EQA and IUCN). Six papers were published in one issue of the Jordan Journal of Natural History as a result of this work and these papers are available HERE
- Buffer Zone for Wadi Qana Protected area (funded by Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences). Report available here an it focuses on a temporary rainfall pond near Jinsafut and the ocally endangered toad Pelobates syriacus. The final technical report can be read here
- Wadi Al-Zarqa Al-Ulwi Protected Area near Salfit including not only survey of fauna and flora but also analysis of threats and designing plan of action and engaging local communities (including school students) in conservation issues. That work is available here: WadiZarqaTechnical. The total beneficiaries were 493, including 200 students (more than 50% female) and 293 adults. The two objectives accomplished via education were: a) increased environmental awareness and behavioral change to conserve ecosystems in WZU, and b) introduced methods that improve people’s lives and the economy via things like permaculture, recycling, upcycling, and composting (many started implementing these practices).
- Project for a protected community Garden, Playground, and Native Botanical Garden at museum ground. Funded by various Sources including Rotary Club and Equestrian Order
- Climate Change Education in Palestine. In collaboration with zoinet.org, Action de sensibilisation et d’éducation à l’environnement et le changement climatique pour les communautés en Palestine. $16,000. by City of Geneva (for execution in Palestine).Jan. 2018 – Dec. 2019. You can download some of the eduucational material here Agriculture-ar Agriculture-eng Biodiversity-ar Biodiversity-eng Climate Change-ar Climate Change-eng EnergyandTransport-ar EnergyandTransport-eng Geography-ar Geography-eng Waste and Chemicals-ar Waste and Chemicals-eng
- Building the Capacity to Protect Palestinian Land and Heritage through Museology and Eco-Tourism. British Council.Sept 2018 – August 2019. For more information, see This link the outut of this project is also an intangible cultural heritage website
- Biodiversity Conservation in Al-Makhrour Valley, Bethlehem, Palestine. National Geographic Society. June 2018 – May 2020.
- Biodiversity Conservation and Community Development in Al-Makhrour Valley in Bethlehem, Palestine. Darwin Fund. Sept 2018-August 2021. See this link for project website.
- Unity and diversity in human societies and nature. Funded by EU peacebuilding initiatve. 2020-2022 (three years) in partnership with Galilee Society and Palestinian Center for Rapprochement between people.
The Convention on Biological Diversity adopted at the Earth Summit Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, highlighted three key principles: conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of nature, and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits. Our work shows the value of combining basic research with education and conservation and with collaboration between academia, NGOs, and government officials and succeeding with limited resources. Much more remains to be done. We have limited resources and human capacity so we welcome collaborations and support both from local and global activists to help us protect our shared blue planet.
Some birds recorded from the Wadi Zarqa protected area. A. European Bee-eater. B. Syrian Woodpecker. C. Little Owl. D. White-throated Kingfisher. E. Mallard. F. Cattle Egret. Photos by A. Khalilieh