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By Gazette staff

Cairo, April 18, 2018 - Providing shade for passersby or lovers who like to hide from people’s eyes, trees in Egypt are also a witness to history. Egypt has many ancient trees in different parts of Cairo and other cities.

There are different types such as the mulberry, the sycamore and the lotus trees which have been there since the pharaonic era. Believing in the importance of trees, the Tree Lovers Association is dedicated to taking care of the trees and documenting them.

Asmaa el-Halwagy, head of the Tree Lovers Association (established in 1973) said that there were about nine heritage gardens in Cairo, they include the Giza Zoo, the Orman Garden, the Asmak (Fish) Garden in Zamalek, the Azbakeya Garden and the Andalus Garden, which are more than 100 years old.

“The Association documents everything in the gardens like the plants, trees, basements and buildings as they are all part of the history and need restoration like any historical monument,” el-Halwagy told a local magazine.

The Association also cares for the street trees. “Street trees are a national treasure. Every large mature tree produces enough oxygen for a family of four,” el-Halwagy said.

She added that each tree needs care for four to five years, until its roots dig deeper and it can depend on itself.

“Some people neglect the historical street trees and say that they are dying, but they are wrong. Trees live for hundreds of years; one example is the camphor tree, which lives for 500 years,” she explained.

One of the popular trees in Egypt is the Sycamore tree, a large, evergreen tree which reaches a height of 20 metres when fully-grown.

It is to be found everywhere in Upper Egypt and the Delta. Sycamore wood is frequently used in making water wheels, water wells and agricultural tools, because it has special characteristics if immersed in water.

Egypt’s Virgin Mary Sycamore is a very famous tree in Matariya, beneath which according to history, the Holy Family rested whilst travelling through Egypt.

Seham el-Sayad, a member of the Tree Lovers Association said that the atmosphere in Egypt helped the trees survive through the years.

“I feel sad when I see how the trees are being treated in the streets nowadays, and how they are neglected,” she told the magazine.

According to Mohamed Abu Seda, head of the National Organisation for Urban Harmony, the government is paying great attention to cultivating and caring for trees.

“We have a national project whose aim is to protect our heritage gardens and bring them back to their golden age,” said Abu Seda.

VIENNA, April 12, 2018 (AFP) — Throughout most of World War II, Allied bombers tried repeatedly to sink the Tirpitz, Germany’s biggest battleship and a bete noir of Britain’s wartime leader Winston Churchill, who took to calling it “the beast”.

On Wednesday, tree experts at the annual meeting of the European Geosciences Union showed why they failed to do so until late 1944

“The story was in the tree rings,” said Claudia Hartl, a researcher at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany.

The unlikely evidence of WWII battles was uncovered during the summer of 2016, when Hartl led students on a routine survey of forests around Kafjord, one of dozens of fjords along the northern coast of Norway.

“We got back to the lab and measured the tree rings, and saw that they were very narrow — in some cases nearly absent — for 1945,” she told AFP.

The forests, in other words, had been hit by an environmental cataclysm.

“Of course we wondered, why is that?”

The first suspect was insect infestation, which can come suddenly and have severe impacts, especially in high-latitude boreal forests.

Driven north of their historic range by climate change, mountain pine beetles, for example, have recently devastated large swathes of forests in Canada, sometimes in a single year.

But there were no known insect in northern Scandinavia that could have delivered that kind of environmental shock in the middle of the 20th century.

“It wasn’t until we spoke to a local scientist based in Tromso that we made the connection to the Tirpitz,” said Scott St George, a geographer at The University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment who took part in the research. 

The Tirpitz and its crew of 2500, it turned out, had retreated into northern Norway’s watery labyrinth to escape detection. In the pre-satellite era, even a 250-metre behemoth wasn’t that easy to spot. 

But Allied aerial scouts finally found it, and the attacks began.

The Germans, however, had a counter-plan: Producing vast quantities of artificial fog, enough to hide the ship and surrounding area from aerial view.

And that’s where the tree rings come in.

 “The smoke drifted into the forests surrounding the fjord and damaged nearby pine and birch trees, leaving behind a distinctive and unusual ‘fingerprint’,” St George told AFP.

The study of tree rings — called dendrochronology, literally, “timeline of trees” — is used by climate scientists to trace changes in temperature, rainfall or river flows reaching back hundreds, even thousands, of years.

The concentric circles found in temperate zone tree trunks can also date the age of buildings, shipwrecks, musical instruments, painting frames or anything else made from temperate-zone wood.

Because trees in the tropics grow continually, they generally do not produce rings, which show growth spurts during spring and summer.


GENEVA, March 6 – (AFP) — Nearly a fifth of Europe’s wood beetle species face extinction because the old, decaying trees they depend on have been cleared from forests, scientists warned yesterday.

Many saproxylic — literally, “dead wood” — beetles could disappear if remaining old-growth trees are not allowed to decline naturally, according to a report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which maintains the Red List of endangered animals and plants worldwide.

Eighteen percent of the 700 beetle species surveyed were found to be at risk, but the percentage is likely higher because there was not enough data to classify a quarter of those examined.

The 3,000 known species of saproxylic beetles need dead and decaying wood at some point during their life cycles.

The insects also play a crucial role in recycling nutrients, and provide a key food source for birds and mammals. A few are also pollinators.

“Conservation efforts need to focus on long-term strategies to protect old trees across different landscapes in Europe,” said Jane Smart, director of the IUCN’s Global Species Programme.

“This will ensure that the vital ecosystem services provided by these beetles continue.”

The loss of trees across Europe is the main driver of the decline, according to the report, based on research by 80 experts.

The beetles, and other wildlife, are also threatened by urbanisation, the expansion of tourism, and the increased frequency and intensity of wildfires in the Mediterranean region.

The Red List update tagged Stictoleptura erythroptera — which seeks out large trees with deep cavities — as “vulnerable” to extinction.

Another species, Iphthiminus italicus, has declined due to tree farming and wildfires. It was classified as “endangered”, an even more precarious status.

The report calls for integrating conservation strategies into forest management.

“Currently, management practices lead to the transformation of wood pastures into either woodland or grassland, destroying the essential vegetation mosaic many saproxylic beetles need,” said Luc Bas, head of the IUCN’s European office.