Forests in Iraq

Trees and Forests of teh Middle East

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James Parton
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Forests in Iraq

Post by James Parton » Sat Jun 19, 2010 5:08 am


I do not know about Afghanistan but my wife's son, Specialist Brian Lyman is stationed at COB Speicher ( US Army ) which is located near Tekrit Iraq and the Tigris River. Check out the picture he took, presumably on post of a road and it's attending trees. Does anyone have any idea what kind they are? Most, if not all of the trees on Speicher have probably been planted since the place is pretty much a featureless desert.
Does anyone know whether they are any forests in Iraq at all. Iran does have some in the northern part of the country.

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Re: Forests in Iraq

Post by edfrank » Sat Jun 19, 2010 5:37 am


There are some forests in northern Iraq and along the rivers running across the country and draining into the Arabian Gulf. I will pull together some infor today.

Unasylva - Vol. 2, No. 5 - Forestry in Iraq, September-October 1948

Here are some excerpts from the document:

THE natural forests of Iraq are confined almost entirely to the northeast region of the country, in mountains occupied by Kurdish tribes. Here the forests clothe the mountain ranges, while the intervening valleys are mostly given up to cultivation or to grazing. Outside the mountain areas, forests exist only as small patches of river-bank scrub (akhrash) along the Euphrates and Tigris and their main tributaries. The remainder of the country is treeless.

The mountain forests have not yet been surveyed or delimited, so that their exact area is unknown. It is estimated that their area is around 20,000 km2, which is roughly two-thirds of the total mountain area in the Northeast region. About 50 percent of the mountain forests are of good stock and may be regarded as productive forests; the remainder represents degraded scrub with a sparse stock of bushes, or cutover forests not likely to become exploitable within the present generation. The lowland riverine forests have for the most part been surveyed during the course of land settlement and their total area is stated to be 80,538 donums, or a little over 200 km.2

Oak trees form the main species of the mountain forests. Quercus brantii (balut) has the widest range, with Q. infectoria commonly admixed, occurring more frequently on the more favorable sites. Q. libani (dindar) is found in the northern mountains above 1,500 meters elevation. The following tree species are found commonly mixed with the oak trees: Juniperus oxycedrus, Pistacia mutica, Pyrus syriaca, Cratoegus azarolus and P. monagyna, Acer monspessulanum. Along mountain stream banks willows, Salix purpurea and S. medemii, plane, Platanus orientalis, popular, Populus euphraca, and ash, Fraxinus rotundifolia, occur and in some places wild groves of walnut, Juglans regia. Pinus brutia occurs mixed with the oak forest in a restricted area of about 500 km2 in the Zawita-Atrush district of Mosul Liwa, and apart from the more widely occurring juniper represents the only coniferous forest found in Iraq.

The main species in the lowland forests are species of willow (Salix purpurea predominating in the northern parts and S. alba and S. acmophylila occurring in the south), Populus euphratica, and different species of Tamarix, the trees often forming thickets with brambles and creepers of such density as to be impenetrable except to the wild pigs which occupy these forests.

All forests in Iraq are used by the people for the production of firewood and charcoal. Villagers close to forest areas cut their own domestic supplies, while along the main road running through the mountains there has been heavy cutting in recent years to supply charcoal and wood to the urban markets of the plains. Many of the forests most accessible to these markets have been so heavily cut over that they have been rendered unproductive for many decades to come. It is estimated that the total yield from the forests annually is about 10,000 tons of charcoal and 20,000 tons of wood fuel, involving the felling of about, 2,000 hectares of mature forest every year. This yield is thought to be well within the capacity of the forests to supply, so long as a systematic program of forest road construction is carried out to enable forest areas at present inaccessible to be brought under economic exploitation.

The oak trees attain a height of 30 meters and a diameter of 25 centimeters at maturity and on favorable sites exceed these dimensions, though rarely producing boles long or straight enough to produce sawtimber of commercial sizes. However, oak trunks are frequently used for pillars or rafters in village huts, while the branches are used very extensively for covering the roofs and for the construction of summertime dwellings (kapras). Overmature oak trees are almost always attacked by heartrot, so that, generally speaking, the main value of these forests is for the fuel they can produce. It is proposed to develop the oak forests in future on a system of selective coppicing, with a utilization diameter of 10 to 15 cms, which would be attained by a rotation of 50 years.

With few exceptions all forest areas in the country are grazed over by flocks of sheep and goats and by herds of the hardy native Kurdish cattle. In many areas the villagers have the habit of pollarding the oak forest in a three-year rotation for the supply of foliage, used in winter as cattle fodder. In such areas, the villagers are careful to preserve the forests, for without them it would be impossible to provide sustenance for the flocks during winter when deep snow covers the ground. The forests, therefore, have an important function in relation to the animal husbandry industry, and it is important to safeguard this function in their future development. In the high mountains, the forest zone reaches as far as the 2,000 meter contour, above which lie the summer pastures, extensively grazed by the nomadic Kurdish tribes. It is estimated that these high pastures occupy about 2,000 km2 of the total forest area, and though they must remain predominantly grazing lands, such areas offer a high potential for afforestation of species of timber trees suitable to high elevations. It is also mainly in these areas that the tragacanth gum-producing species of Astragalus occur.

In addition to the forest products already mentioned there are several secondary products of some importance. Gallnuts produced by Quercus infectoria are harvested in considerable quantity for tanning and are exported. In 1938 the value of this export item amounted to ID. 41,569 (about $203,000). The gum tragacanth sells for about ID. 1,200 (about $5,900) a ton locally, and quantities valued at about ID. 50,000 ($240,000) are exported annually. Acorns are collected and sold locally, and in times of poor harvests these are ground into flour and used extensively by the villagers. The seeds of the Pistacia mutica are also widely used....

Iraq produces very little timber, so that most of the requirements, especially in constructional timber and high-grade furniture wood, have to be imported. In 1938, the value of timber imports amounted to ID. 440,000 ($2,150,000) so it is evident that afforestation is needed in order to increase local production and to save import costs. Apart from a small amount of locally grown plane and walnut, most of the local timber consists of poplar, Populus nigra, which is cultivated by the villagers on irrigated plantations in the northern mountains. Owing to the intense demand, it is the custom to fell the poplar groves before the trees have attained timber dimensions for the supply of roofing poles and for rough construction work. The annual yield from these poplar groves is not known...

The natural forests of Iraq are of importance no less for their outturn of useful products than for the protection of the mountainsides against the forces of erosion and in checking the runoff of winter rains and snow-melt. The river floods coming down the Tigris in spring are of vital importance to the country, in one sense because of their irrigation value and in another because of the danger of the floods getting out of control and causing great damage by inundation. The mountain forests forming the catchment areas of the Tigris and its principal tributaries exercise a most important function in flood control and in reducing the silting up of river beds, reservoirs, and irrigation canals. It is very necessary, therefore, to maintain and to improve forest cover in the mountains so that its function in relation to flood control and erosion should not be further impaired.

Uncontrolled or badly regulated cutting of the forest is at present a prevalent form of damage, especially in areas within economic exploitation of the urban markets. With an ever-growing population there is also considerable pressure on the forest land by cultivators, and a tendency has been noticed for temporary cultivation to encroach upon cutover forest, which prevents recovery of the forest after cutting, and leads to accelerated soil erosion and runoff. Fire in summer is widespread in the mountain forests and imposes annually a loss on the forests which must exceed the loss by cutting. Grazing is another form of forest exploitation which, if uncontrolled, can do great harm, especially in burned- or cut-over areas, where the constant browsing and trampling of the flocks tend to retard forest recovery and to increase the rate of erosion. These four destructive agencies - cutting, shifting cultivation, forest fires, and grazing - all the work of man - far outweigh in importance the damage by natural causes, such as fungal decay, insect attack, grazing by wild animals, climatic accidents, etc.

Forests, Grasslands, and Drylands-- Iraq ... ou_368.pdf

Iraq Deforestation Rates and Related Forestry Figures ... 0/Iraq.htm
irag_captions.JPG (28.46 KiB) Viewed 8392 times
This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons.

Geography of Iran- Flora and Fauna
More than one-tenth of the country is forested. The most extensive growths are found on the mountain slopes rising from the Caspian Sea, with stands of oak, ash, elm, cypress, and other valuable trees. On the plateau proper, areas of scrub oak appear on the best-watered mountain slopes, and villagers cultivate orchards and grow the plane tree, poplar, willow, walnut, beech, maple, and mulberry. Wild plants and shrubs spring from the barren land in the spring and afford pasturage, but the summer sun burns them away. According to FAO reports [1], the major types of forests that exist in Iran and their respective areas are:

1.Caspian forests of the northern districts – 19,000 km2 (7,300 sq mi)
2.Limestone mountainous forests in the northeastern districts (Juniperus forests – 13,000 km2 (5,000 sq mi)
3.Pistachio forests in the eastern, southern and southeastern districts – 26,000 km2 (10,000 sq mi)
4.Oak forests in the central and western districts – 35,000 km2 (14,000 sq mi)
5.Shrubs of the Kavir (desert) districts in the central and northeastern part of the country – 10,000 km2 (3,900 sq mi)
6.Sub-tropical forests of the southern coast, like the Hara forests – 5,000 km2 (1,900 sq mi)
More than 2,000 plant species are grown in Iran. The land covered by Iran's natural flora is four times that of the Europe’s.

Blogs Over Baghdad " Plants and Animals in Iraq ... s-in-iraq/
What Can You Find in Iraq?
Small trees growing in the desert.
Small trees growing in the desert.
iraq5-300x199.jpg (12.19 KiB) Viewed 8392 times
From Encyclopedia Brittanica: Vegetation in Iraq reflects the dominant influence of drought. Some Mediterranean and alpine plant species thrive in the mountains of Kurdistan, but the open oak forests that formerly were found there have largely disappeared. Hawthorns, junipers, terebinths, and wild pears grow on the lower mountain slopes. A steppe region of open, treeless vegetation is located in the area extending north and northeast from the Hamrīn Mountains up to the foothills and lower slopes of the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan. A great variety of herbs and shrubs grow in that region. Most belong to the sage and daisy families: mugwort (Artemisis vulgaris), goosefoot, milkweed, thyme, and various rhizomic plants are examples. There also are many different grasses. Toward the riverine lowlands many other plants appear, including storksbill and plantain. Willows, tamarisks, poplars, licorice plants, and bullrushes grow along the banks of the lower Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The juice of the licorice plant is extracted for commercial purposes. Dozens of varieties of date palm flourish throughout southern Iraq, where the date palm dominates the landscape. The lakesides and marshlands support many varieties of reeds, sedges, pimpernels, vetches, and geraniums. By contrast, vegetation in the desert regions is sparse, with tamarisk, milfoil, and various plants of the genera Ziziphus and Salsola being characteristic.

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re: Forests in Iraq

Post by KoutaR » Sat Jun 19, 2010 3:12 pm


It is difficult to identify the trees in the photo but I give a quess: they are Eucalyptus sp. Ask Brian to take photos of trunk and leaves; fruits and flowers too, if possible.

I have once flown over Iraq (from Dubai to Frankfurt), and I saw some stands along rivers. I now found a site describing Iraq's forests:

Iran have luxurious broadleaf forests along the Caspian Sea, and there is an another forest area of dry oak forests in the Zagros Mountains, in the western Iran.


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Re: Forests in Iraq

Post by Don » Sat Jun 19, 2010 10:42 pm

I commented earlier in the forum's posting about Afghanistan, and not suprisingly, I have a similar recommendation for those interested in Iraq.
A very interesting Scotsman, Rory Stuart, has written a book called "Prince of Marshes", about his time there as a Provincial governor of Diyala (if my memory serves me), and his immersion in their culture. I highly recommend it. I have seen Rory in person not too long ago, addressing a University of Alaska at Fairbanks' audience...he is very articulate, and quick on his feet, as well as classically educated...all the more impressive, as he is still a young man!
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