Should sacred groves become part of protected area networks in the Middle East?
As a complement to ongoing vegetation studies in the Kurdistan province of Iran, a study was conducted on local people's views on sacred groves and the reasons why they have remained well preserved. There were 205 respondents in 25 villages. Spiritual values, biodiversity, and cultural heritage values are key motivations for local people to preserve sacred groves. People shared taboos that restrict natural resource use (for instance, clearing of trees). The study highlights that maintaining and fostering informal conservation traditions (as expressed in the taboos associated with the sacred groves of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey) is crucial for biodiversity conservation in this region. This matters even more in areas of conflict like the Middle East where formal protected areas have failed and where pressures on natural resources are high.