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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 643: International Conference on Urban Horticulture

PLANT USE IN DESERT CLIMATES - LOOKING FORWARD TO SUSTAINABLE PLANTING IN THE NEGEV AND OTHER WORLD DESERTS

Author:   B. Kotzen
Keywords:   sustainable development, water, ecology, landscape, xerophytic species
Abstract:
Plant use in arid regions is facing an enormous challenge. Deserts are under threat from development and over-grazing, and they are expanding at an alarming rate. The issue of plant use for landscape, environmental and horticultural purposes in desert environments is part and parcel of the issue of sustainable development in these regions and in the Middle East and the issue of water is a highly politicised one. It has been said that here, water and not oil is the chief threat to regional peace. There is thus a great need to find and use plants that are drought- and saline-tolerant, in order to grow well and to save water. The introduction of foreign, alien species into the Negev Desert in southern Israel and elsewhere has caused enormous problems, altering ecological systems and the intrinsic character of the local landscape. The use of foreign alien species that are heat tolerant and may be drought tolerant is no longer universally acceptable. There is a critical necessity to preserve and enhance the ecological and landscape integrity of desert environments. In the Negev Desert, native plants have largely been ignored for use although they appear to offer a means towards more sustainable development and the protection and enhancement of the environment. However, the placement and type of use needs to be determined. Thus a new landscape paradigm has been developed which appears appropriate for most desert and indeed other landscape areas. This paradigm advocates the use of native plants but places this use within the context of various landscape zones found in the desert. The introduction of the "middle landscape" is an important zone within this model as it is here, in particular, in these in-between areas that resources such as water can be saved and where ecological and landscape values can be enhanced.
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