The History of Afforestation in Iran

M. Ajorlo[1]


Afforestation in Iran has its roots in traditional and national customs, in Iranism, and in the religious beliefs of Iran’s people. With the growth of civilization in Iran, people began to plant trees for different purposes. Therefore tree planting has a long history in Iran. The first modern afforestation was conducted with the planting of a mangrove species, Rhizophora mucronata, on the southern coasts in 1914-1918 during World War I. After the establishment of the first Forestry Office in the Agriculture Department in 1920, there was no afforestation activity of any note until 1948, when the Forest Agency was established. With the establishment of the Afforestation Office in 1948, planting of some endemic and an exotic species (Ailanthus altissima) was started in different parts of country. Planting of coniferae species was started in 1958. The first considerable afforestation was conducted with planting of coniferae species in 1960. It was conducted in Shahrposh, district of Noshahr city, and had an area of 40 ha.

Between 1920 and 1979 (the Islamic revolution), the total area of afforested lands in northern (humid region) and other parts (arid and semi-arid regions) of the country were 29 400 ha and 13 300 ha, respectively. After 1979, afforestation activity was stopped for four years. During 1979-1989 (the start of quinquennial development programs), the total area of afforested lands in northern and other parts of country were 60 010 ha and 20 164 ha, respectively. During the first quinquennial development program (1989-1993), the area of afforested lands in the north was 89 685 ha and in the other regions was 230 577 ha. During the second quinquennial development program (1994-1999), the area of afforested lands was 69 435 ha in the north and 268 575 ha in other regions. Finally, up till 1999, the total area of afforested lands in Iran was 781 200 ha. At the present time, the annual afforestation rate is about 6 541.7 ha in the north and 14 016.2 ha in the other regions.


Planting of tree species in order to production wood and fruit has been started from arising of civilization in Iran. Existence of aged and sacred trees in national, historical and religious places are indicators of tree plantation importance near ancient Iranians. Abarkoh cypress with more than 5000 years old in Yazd province is one of the instances of aged tree in Iran. Besides of dry and unfavorable climatic conditions, need to wood for agriculture implements making and build construction is another reason of tree plantation in Iran. During the different stages of mankind life, adverse condition and socio-economic factors are caused degradation of forests in Iran. Nowadays, Population growth, urbanization and industrialization are another factors that cause forest degradation. Therefore, afforestation as a tool for improvement and development of forest is very necessary in Iran.


1. Afforestation

As mentioned before, afforestation has root in Iran’s history. But the first afforestation in modern form is accomplished during World War I by planting of Rizophora mucronata in southern Iran. The second afforestation is conducted by planting of Pinus brutia in Lorestan province during World War II. There is no witness that who have done aforementioned afforestation. Let it no remain unsaid that entrance of exotic species to Iran occurred in southern coasts. The most ancient exotic tree is Ficus bengalensis in Iran. It exists in Kish and Khark islands now. By beginning of oil extraction in southern Iran, many exotic species is entered to Khozestan province from foreign countries. Terminalia arjuna in Abadan Oil Coompany´s garden is one of that species. Karim Saeei decided Establishment of four plantations in Vali-abad, Dasht-e-nazir, Challus, and Alamdeh regions in 1940 after establishment of Forest Office in 1938. But this decision did not accomplish because of occupation of Iran by the Allies.

Faun dem Haugen (1926) in his report about northern forests believes that major degradation factors of Iranian forests are:

In fact, after establishment of Afforestation Office in Forest Institution have been started the fist serious movement in afforestation. After that, 150 gr. seeds of Picea pungens imported from Ukraine in 1956 and planted in Noshahr Ecological Garden and Karaj Agriculture College campus. The first textbook about afforestation is written by Dr. M. H. Djazirehi in 1958 and published by Forest Institution. Many coniferae exotic species is imported from Europe in 1958 in order to doing various experiments. The first considerable and distinguishable afforestation is conducted in Shahrposht, district of Noshahr city, with 40 ha area in 1961. To become nationalized rangeland and forest in 1962, the afforestation activity was extending quickly.

2. seedling production

It seems as though the Chamarsara tree-nursery is the first one, which is established in Rasht City in 1947. There are more than 30 governmental big tree-nurseries in Iran. Also there are a few private tree-nurseries. Some of governmental tree-nurseries are as follows:

In recent time, there are more than 30 tree-nurseries with total area of 756.773 ha in the northern part and 80 tree-nurseries with total area of 1121.877 ha in other parts of Iran.

3. Production of coniferae seedling

Iranian expert’s inspection from European country afforestation activities had considerable effects on Iran’s afforestation procedures. In Europe, because of special socio-economic conditions and specific silvicultural methods, much of their afforestation activities were conducted by planting of coniferae species after forest clear-cutting. Therefore, Iranian experts concluded that planting of exotic coniferae species would be more effect in Iran. The Kalardasht tree-nursery was the first in production of coniferae seedlings. The Noshahr and Shahsavar´s Forest Management Office were the first in planting of coniferae seedlings in 1961 and 1962. Some species, which were produced by Kalardasht tree-nursery in 1959, were Picea excelsa, Abies normaniana, Picea pungens, Pinus sylvestris, Cupressus arizonica, Cryptomeria japanica, and Pinus eldarica.

Clear cutting and exotic coniferae planting

Initiation of afforestation in Iran, especially in northern part, started after forest clear cutting. Some of major reasons for clear cutting are listed below:

Because of Caspian forest similarity to European broad-leaves forests in view points of climatic, ecological and vegetation aspects, this region was the first vegetation habitat which considered for afforestation by government. Only coniferae species have been used in afforestation of this region after clear cutting.

Afforestation periods in Iran

1. Commencement to Islamic revolution (1979)

After establishment of the first Forest Office in Agriculture & Public profits Ministry in 1920, there was no considerable activity in afforestation until 1948 which Forest Institution was established. Mr. Karim Saeei, the father of Iran’s forestry, has done lots of activities for afforestation and tree-nursery establishment. Because of his efforts, the Afforestation Office was founded in 1948. By using of some endemic and exotic species was conducted a few afforestation in different parts of country during 1948-1958. Planting of exotic coniferae seedling was begun in 1958 after reaching of planted exotic species to suitable size. After establishment of Forestry Organization in 1959, afforestation activities were conducted only in small area until 1979. During this period, afforestation was conducted by clear cutting and exotic species planting in northern part of country. In the other parts of country, only unforested regions or completely degraded forests were afforested. For instance, Chitgar Park in Tehran suburb is one of the afforested regions during this period. The total area of afforested lands in this period were 29400 ha in northern and 13300 ha in other parts of country.

2. From 1979 to 1988 (start of the first cultural and socio-economic development program)

Afforestation and park management had suffered four years delay after islamic revolution. But forest rehabilitation, seedling production, new plantation establishment, and afforestation had great forward movement in 1983 and 1984. In northern part of country, besides of conduction of forestry plans by executives, general offices of natural resources afforested considerable regions. During these years, afforestation method was planting of exotic and endemic species after forest clear cutting. But percentage of exotic and coniferae species have declined in this period in comparison with latter period. Cupressus sempervirens var. horizantalis was the individual coniferae species, which used for afforestation during the first years of islamic government. Seedling production and afforestation in southern, western and other forest habitats of country was begun in this period. Beginning of cultural and socio-economic development program was the serious change in afforestation and forest rehabilitation.

3. First cultural and socio-economic development program (1989-1993)

Afforestation had ascending trend in this period. Afforestation activities reached their zenith in 1991. After that it had descending trend. Some of strategies that have adopted in this program are as follows:

4. Second cultural and socio-economic development program (1994-99)

The second development program should be include as change in technical and executive policies. Some policies that are adopted in this period are as follows:

Area of afforested lands from commencement until 1999

Table 1 and 2 show the total area of afforested lands by governmental, private sectors and people participation in Iran. As the tables show, unfortunately afforestation activities have descending trend in northern part of country. Area of afforested lands was 1732.6 ha/y before 1979 (islamic revolution) and it is increased to 6001 ha/y during 1979-1989. Also afforestation rate during the first development program is increased to 17937 ha/y. On behalf of reduction in governmental credits, afforestation rate reduced to 11580 ha/y during the second development program. There are tree strategies to solve these problems:

1- Increasing of governmental credits in afforestation section by considering of annual inflation.

2- Looking change in management procedures of forestry plans and considering new techniques in forestry.

3- Management of forest in collaboration with forestry corporations and people participation.

Table 1. Area of afforested lands from commencement until 1999 in northern part (humid area) of country.


Area of afforested lands (ha)

Annual mean of afforestation (ha)

Before islamic revolution (1962-1978)















Table 2. Area of afforested lands from commencement until 1999 in other parts (arid and semi-arid areas) of country.


Area of afforested lands (ha)

Annual mean of Afforestation (ha)

Before islamic revolution (1962-1978)















Total area of afforested lands in Iran: 781200 ha

Plate 1. Afforestation by using of Tamarix species in hyper-arid area of Iran.

Figure 1. Technical-executive strategies of afforestation

Present problems and solutions

Socio-economic problems are the most important factors in management, improvement and development of natural resources in Iran.

- Presence of animals and nomads in forests (except Caspian forests) is one of the most important problems. To solve this problem, it should be consider participation of local nomads and use of their knowledge in forestry plans.

- Coming out of livestock from Caspian forests is very necessary.

- By doing of first and second items, the area of afforestation will be increase twice a present time.

- An insufficient plantation in highlands for production of seeding in order to improvement of highland’s degraded forests. Allocation of sufficient governmental credits is one of the methods to solve this problem.

- Incoordination of research and executive sectors in such a manner that only old experiences are used in afforestation now.

- Providing and training experienced and skilled experts in afforestation sector.

- Lack of using of similar country’s experience in afforestation. Interaction with countries that have the same natural condition as Iran can be very useful.

- Inefficiency of existing plantations in seedling production.

- Lack of fostering practices in affrorested lands because of financial problems.

- Some ministries as ministry of energy; road; housing and etc deteriorate forest during their developmental activities. Therefore, it is necessary to approve a law concerning afforestation by the above ministries after their activities.

- To approve another laws about people participation, forest degradation control, factories and industries collaboration with Forest and Range Organization (F.R.O).

- Annexation of watershed management offices to F.R.O in order to execution of objectives of watersheds comprehensive plans.

- Optimization of F.R.O chart and its related offices administrative chart.

Description of executive-technical policies in afforestation section

Afforestation is all activities, which accomplish by human for improvement and development of forests by using of seed or seedling. As mentioned in figure 1, Various afforestation techniques with considering to different aspects of Iranian forests such as altitude, precipitation, degradation factors, socio-economic problems and etc are defined as follows:

1. Productive afforestation: aim of this activity is to production of wood and its by-products. Therefore it has economical aims. The results of this activity is cause increasing in rural employment, rural economic, forage production and decreasing rural immigration and forest degradation. This kind of afforestation has two categories:

1.1. Forest enrichment and improvement: This activity in Caspian forests includes limit cutting associated with seed broadcasting and/or seedling planting. Its aims are improvement of species diversity, and quantity & quality of forests. It is conducted in degraded forests.

1.2. Forest development: This activity conducts in regions that have suitable climatic and edaphic conditions. Its aim is to extend the area of existing forests. This section has two subsection:

1.2.1. Pioneer afforestation: Major parts of forests in highlands are degraded completely. After solving socio-economic problems of this area, we can convert the area to forest by planting of endemic or exotic species based on current natural conditions.

1.2.2. Tree planting development: In respect to various socio-economic problems in Iran’s natural resources section as population growth, poverty, unemployment and etc; people participation in tree planting and wood production is considered in this section. This section has tree subsections: Agroforestry, inter-cropping, and multiple-purpose species.

2. Environmental afforestation: Air and invisible pollution control, absorption of dust and toxic gases, air purification, landscape beautification, and etc are the aims of this activity. It consists of hand-planted wooded parks and green spaces. The hand-planted wooded parks are very important in arid and semi-arid area of Iran. In this parks, elegant design, special landscape, a recreation facilities are considered. Green spaces are different from forested parks. In green spaces, aim is only to establish of desirable space by planting of some compatible species in order to air purification and other environmental aspects. There aren’t any recreation facilities in green spaces. People cannot use it. Green belts around the cities; tree rows in roadsides are instances of green spaces.


The author would like to thanks to the Forest and Range Organization (F.R.O) staff, especially to M.A. Hedayati for their assistance. Special thanks to the staff of Zabol University central library for their guidance and suggestions.


1- Saee, K., 1942, A glance in Iran’s forests, Afforestation Office, Agriculture Ministry press.

2- Nameless, 1950, Forest Institution yearbook, publication commission press.

3- Pourasgari, A. M., 1996, Plantation specifications, Afforestation and Park Office press.

4- Moslehi, E., 1964, General report of afforestation program, Noshahr Forest Head Office.

5- Hedayati, M.A., 2001, The stages of afforestation in Iran, Range and Forest magazine, Forest and Range Organization.

[1] Instructor of Natural Resources College, Zabol University, P.O. Box 98615-538, Zabol, Iran. Email: Ajorlo_m54@yahoo.com