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Natural Ecosystem-Units in Israel and the Palestinian Authority - Representativeness in Protected Areas and Suggested Solutions for Biodiversity Conservation

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The geographic location of Israel and the Palestinian Authorityon the border between Mediterranean and desert climate, and the strong topographic and geomorphological variation resulting from its position on the Great African Rift Valley, combine to sustain a great diversity of landscapes in a very small country. The purpose of this study is to determine whether the protected areas in Israel and the Palestinian Authority adequately represent the range of landscapes and ecosystems in the region. Altogether, we defined 23 natural ecosystem-units in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, of which 17 are terrestrial landscapes and 6 are aquatic systems. In considering the adequacy of coverage in protected areas, we mapped Israel and the Palestinian Authority landscapes according to a set of environmental factors (climatic, geomorphological, geological and botanical) that we believe most effectively distinguish landscape types in this region. When the separation between adjacent units relies on sharp topographic or edaphic change in the landscape, the mapped units can be separated by a clear and sharp line. When adjacent units are actually a gradient of continuous environmental conditions the separation lines relied mostly on botanic characteristics. The main land use categories in this analysis were urban areas, agricultural areas, nature reserves, national parks and forest reserves. For the first time in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, we quantified the different landscape types under the different categories of land use. This process, known as systematic conservation planning, allowed us to detect natural landscapes that are underrepresented in protected areas, and can guide decision makers to establish or improve management for the better representation of biodiversity.
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10.2478/jlecol-2014-0011 Journal of Landscape Ecology (2014), Vol: 7 / No. 1
NATURAL ECOSYSTEM-UNITS IN ISRAEL
AND THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY - REPRESENTATIVENESS
IN PROTECTED AREAS AND SUGGESTED SOLUTIONS
FOR BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION
DOTAN ROTEM1, GILAD WEIL2
1Israel Nature and Parks Authority, 3 Am Ve Olamo Street, Jerusalem, Israel 95463,
email: dotanrotem@npa.org.il
2Israel Nature and Parks Authority, 3 Am Ve Olamo Street, Jerusalem, Israel 95463
Received: 11th May 2014, Accepted: 31th July 2014
ABSTRACT
The geographic location of Israel and the Palestinian Authorityon the border between
Mediterranean and desert climate, and the strong topographic and geomorphological
variation resulting from its position on the Great African Rift Valley, combine to sustain
a great diversity of landscapes in a very small country. The purpose of this study is to
determine whether the protected areas in Israel and the Palestinian Authority adequately
represent the range of landscapes and ecosystems in the region.
Altogether, we defined 23 natural ecosystem-units in Israel and the Palestinian Authority,
of which 17 are terrestrial landscapes and 6 are aquatic systems. In considering the adequacy
of coverage in protected areas, we mapped Israel and the Palestinian Authority landscapes
according to a set of environmental factors (climatic, geomorphological, geological and
botanical) that we believe most effectively distinguish landscape types in this region. When
the separation between adjacent units relies on sharp topographic or edaphic change in the
landscape, the mapped units can be separated by a clear and sharp line. When adjacent units
are actually a gradient of continuous environmental conditions the separation lines relied
mostly on botanic characteristics.
The main land use categories in this analysis were urban areas, agricultural areas, nature
reserves, national parks and forest reserves. For the first time in Israel and the Palestinian
Authority, we quantified the different landscape types under the different categories of land
use. This process, known as systematic conservation planning, allowed us to detect natural
landscapes that are underrepresented in protected areas, and can guide decision makers to
establish or improve management for the better representation of biodiversity.
Key words: Systematic conservation planning, Ecosystem-units, land use, mapping
ecosystems, biodiversity conservation, representativeness in protected areas
INTRODUCTION
Mapping ecosystems or ecosystem-units is a well-known practice around the world (Klijn
& Udo de Haes, 1994; Blasi et al, 2000; Davies & Moss, 2002; Comer et al., 2003; Hargrove
& Hoffman, 2004). The resolution of the units varies according to the aims of a particular
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work or research or the questions of the researcher (O'Neill et al., 1986). In many cases the
mapping is based on subjective decisions relying on geological, topographic, geomorphology
or botanic spatial changes (Bailey, 1985). These changes can be detected on the landscape or
by orthophoto or after detailed research or a quantitative mapping procedure. There are many
guidelines to draw the correct lines to distinguish between two adjacent ecosystems or
ecosystem-units (Bailey, 1985; Hargrove & Hoffman, 1999; Blasi et al, 2000; Post et al.,
2007). A simple separation can be drawn between water bodies and terrestrial units, between
two different soil units or following topographic lines of foothills and valleys (Strayer et al.,
2003). However a researcher can face a challenge trying to draw a line between two units that
represent an environmental gradient. The meaning of these lines, aiming to separate adjacent
biological or ecological units, is well discussed in the literature (Strayer et al., 2003;
Hargrove & Hoffman, 2004). But most writers agree that the lines are artificially drawn,
under consistent procedure, in order to face the targets of a particular research.
In order to obtain more objective decisions to define ecosystems, climatic-geographical
models were applied (Hargrove & Hoffman, 1999; Trakhtenbrot & Kadmon, 2006). At the
base of these models an iterative comparison among adjacent cells, in a continuous grid, is
running across a raster-based map resulting in clusters of similar cells (Hargrove & Hoffman,
1999). The resulting maps can vary according to thresholds or the percentage given to each
variable (Trakhtenbrot & Kadmon, 2006). The accuracy of the model results depends on the
available climatic and geographic data of a particular country. But models usually rely on the
one hand on mapped environmental variables that themselves rely on models (for example,
continuous spatial information regarding annual precipitation based on an extrapolation of
rain gauge data), and on other hand on field observations that contain various biases. The
results of these models do not always coincide with the physical or detectable boundaries in
the landscape that can ease practical management efforts. Better results can be achieved with
data obtained from sophisticated satellite sensors or airborne sensors (Kampe et al., 2010).
The variables obtained are continuous sampled data, rather than extrapolation among widely
spaced ground sampling sites (Hargrove & Hoffman, 2004; Kampe et al., 2010) and the
results are far more accurate.
The challenge of delineating a border around habitats or ecosystems stems from the
definition of these two terms. The classic definition of habitat is the physical and biological
condition allowing a species to exist and to breed successfully, in space and time. More
accurately, habitat can be defined as resources and conditions present in an area that produce
occupancy-including survival and reproduction by a given organism. Habitat is organism
specific; it relates the presence of a species, population, or individual (animal or plant) to an
are 's physical and biological characteristics (Hall et al., 1997). An ecosystem is defined as a
higher level in the hierarchy of the ecological order. Odum (2001) termed it as every defined
life system in a defined geographic area including all living organisms and their interaction
with the physical environment which surrounds them. It is a functional unit for which output
and inputs can be defined. An ecosystem is more than a delineated geographic unit or region.
It can be describe as a hollow hole in a tree or a floating algal surface (O'Neill et al., 1986), or
a coral reef or rain forest.
In both cases, habitat and ecosystems, the lines we draw have no realistic meaning, neither
for the species nor for most of the physical conditions forming the ecosystem. For example
the line of a lake is well defined from the land surrounds it, yet an otter can live outside the
lake but get its food in it (Strayer et al., 2003). The line between mountain slopes and valley is
well defined in the landscape and in reality we cross from terra-rossa soils to alluvial soils
respectively. But landslides or even simple erosion can drift essential elements from the slope
ecosystem to alluvium, allowing mountain species to survive or thrive in the alluvial
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ecosystem. In order to avoid the elusive term 'ecosystem' for mapping procedure we choose
to use the term ecosystem-unit which will get it closer to geographic terms and can actually
combine the two disciplines.
Defining ecosystems can be done in many objective and subjective methods, depending on
budget, data availability and time. Different researchers can get completely different results
with the same set of data because of the way they interpret the combination of conditions
assembling an ecosystem. Therefore the goal or target of the work is an important starting
point.
We take the case of Israel and the Palestinian Authority as an example. The present
bioclimatic categories are dividing Israel and the Palestinian Authority into four
Phytogeographic regions (Figure 1), which correspond to climatic division made by climate
researchers (Braver, 2010). Other current maps are dedicated to other disciplines: geology
(Bentor, 1970), soil (Dan et al., 1974), botany (Zohary, 1980).
Fig. 1: Phytogeographic-climatic regions after Waisel (1984)
Kaplan & Salutzki (2000) presented methodology for evaluation of open landscape in
Israel. They combined several physical conditions to each landscape unit but eventually
those units correspond well to topographic traits other than the combination of traits that
corresponds to ecological demands of organisms. The purpose of the present study is to
determine whether the protected areas in Israel and the Palestinian Authority adequately
represent the range of landscapes and ecosystem-units in the country. Joppa & Pfaff (2009)
have shown that protected areas around the world are located in non-favorable landscapes
hence high, steep and far from lands suitable for agriculture or large cities. We suggest the
partition of the region into ecosystem-units and then exploring its representativeness in
protected areas (Scott et al., 2001). The work should serve as guideline for priorities for
district ecologists and planners inside Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) as well as for
decision makers and stakeholders in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Priorities for INPA
will point at promotion of conservation or management of landscape in ecosystem-units that
will define as underrepresented in protected areas. The results of the study are mostly
intuitively known but some were unexpected.
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MAPPING METHODS
Israel and the Palestinian Authority are characterized by considerable variation in climate,
topography, lithology and pedology. Mean annual rainfall ranges from 15 mm in the south to
1200 mm in the north. Elevation ranges from 400 m below sea level at the Dead Sea area to
2200 m above sea level at Mt. Hermon. Variation in topography is associated with related
variation in temperature, although other factors such as latitude and distance from the
Mediterranean Sea are also involved in determining patterns of variation in temperature and
precipitation.
In the present work we used conventional mapping methods as done around the world. We
relied on well documented knowledge and draw the lines between ecosystem-units based on
expert's opinion. Biotic data were based mostly on botanic maps and literature (e.g. Zohary,
1980; Rabinowitz, 1986; Danin, 1992; Kadmon & Danin, 1999). Abiotic were obtained from
standard national GIS layers and literature, including climate (Braver, 2010), geology
(Zilberman et al., 2011; Bentor, 1970), geomorphology (Nir, 1989) and soils (Dan et al.,
1974; Rabikovitz, 1981). The mapping procedure relayed mostly on 1:50,000 scale data.
Several ecosystem borders were extracted from 1:250,000 maps. The shore salines were
mapped on the bases of the PEF (Palestine Exploration Fund) map, at the scale of 1:63,000
(1:50,000 inch). In order to map the rocky shores along the Mediterranean coast, we used
aerial photographs at the scale of 1:5,000 (Table 1).
Table 1: Categories list forming Ecosystem-units map
Map / Layer scale
Source
Category / layer name
#
1:50,000
Minestry of Agriculture
Soils map
1
1:50,000
Geological Survey of Israel
Lithology map
2
1:50,000 1:250,000
INPA, Hebrew university,
SPNI, Zohary,
1980;Rabinowitz, 1986;
Danin, 1992
Botanical maps
3
1:250,000
Hebrew university
Climate map - Precipitation
4
1:50,000
Survey of Israel, INPA
Streams and Rivers
5
1:2,500
Survey of Israel
Ortophoto
6
The smallest ecosystem-unit is the rocky shores, with total coverage of less than two square
kilometers. That ecosystem-unit is not continuous along the shore. We choose the hierarchal
method (Bailey, 1985) where climate is defined as the higher level, followed by geology,
geomorphology, topography, pedology and finally vegetation structure, and in some cases
also characteristic fauna (Figure 2).
For strict terrestrial ecosystem units the higher level was defined by climate and in
particular precipitation. The second level referred to traits stems from geology, lithology,
geomorphology and soils, followed by topographic patterns of the landscape, and ending
with botanical traits like patterns of plants or other dominant species (Figure 2). For aquatic
ecosystem units, the first level referred to the geometry of the unit, followed by chemical or
geomorphological traits, and ending with topography, flow pattern and botany.
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Fig. 2: Hierarchy scheme to define terrestrial ecosystem-units
The highest level is climate dividing the area into three categories followed by traits or conditions of
morphology, pedology and geology. The next level refers to topography or to the main pattern of the
landscape. The last level is botany refers to spatial pattern of vascular plants or dominant species.The
example is given for three ecosystem-units under semi desert conditions.
In several occasions we could base an ecosystem-unit definition on particular research that
revealed ecological interactions among the major organisms of the ecosystem. These
interactions dictate plant physiognomy and influence the patchpattern of the ecosystem
(Shahak, 2010). Bioclimatic models like Mahalanobis Distance (Mahalanobis, 1936; Farber,
& Kadmon, 2003) failed to distinguish between adjacent ecosystems because of poor spatial
data and because the assemblage of organisms poorly corresponds to a border that restricts
their distribution (Pearson & Dawson, 2003). We did correct the line between two
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ecosystems: Extreme Xeric Desert and Shrubby Steppes in the Negev Desert after using
Mahalanobis Distance based on observations of species that characterize the two ecosystems.
Subsequent decisions to draw lines between ecosystem units relied on intuition (Bailey,
1985; Blasi et al, 2000). This intuition or expert opinion was based on knowledge that
stemmed from the combination of environmental physical and biological factors that we
delineated as a separate landscape unit or ecosystem-unit.
The area mapped lies within the present international borders of Israel and the Palestinian
Authority exclusive of Gaza. While mapping ecosystem units we did not consider existing
land use. The ecosystem-units were mapped without existing development constraints. At the
first step of mapping ecosystems we excluded very small units like springs, seasonal ponds
and caves.
Ecosystem-units definition
The proposed division to ecosystem-units unifies extensive areas with similar
environmental conditions and features or similar phenomena of flora and fauna. For example
fast flowing streams are characterized by plants with resistance to flood flows and animals
with relatively flat substrate adherence ability. Animals and plants possessing traits to cope
with sandy soil will characterize sandy soil ecosystems but not adjacent ones.
Altogether, we defined 23 natural biomes in Israel and the Palestinian Authority (Figure 3),
of which 17 are terrestrial landscapes and 6 are aquatic systems. The first step divided the
map into terrestrial-waters ecosystems vs strictly terrestrial. The humid ecosystems were
divided according to their shape, separating lakes from streams. The two lakes of Israel and
the Palestinian Authority are well defined by their salinity. The Sea of Galilee is a freshwater
lake while the Dead Sea is a hyper-saline lake. We have delineated the historical sea level
(Fig. 3). Although In present days the southern part of the Dead Sea is part of mineral
manufacture factory and the actual ecosystem-unit is relevant only in the north part of the
lake. Streams were divided by the main soil or rock characterizing their banks and bed:
alluvium vs rocky or stony. Streams in this region are very narrow entities showing on the
maps (and in reality) as single continuous blue lines. Since every stream has a volume of
water and it influences several meters of its banks, we decided that on average alluvial
stream width will be 100 meters. These streams are characterized by a low gradient with
laminar flow, canalizing in the coastal low lands of the country. Wide streams in the north
of Israel, with their riverine forests, and the lower Jordan River with its meanders, were
defined at 100 meters width as well. Although the lower Jordan River can be considered an
alluvial stream, its natural meanders and the soils it canalizing in differs it from the low land
alluvial rivers which are mostly artificial canals. Mountain streams characterized by steep
gradients and turbulent rapid flow were considered 50 meter width. Altogether we have
referred to the historical (last 100 years) potential flow of the streams.
The division of the strictly terrestrial ecosystem-units followed a hierarchy procedure,
starting with rainfall and ending with floral characteristics. Climate and in particular rain,
divides Israel and the Palestinian Authority into three main climatic zones: 450 -1,100 mm,
200 450mm and less than 200 mm.
Further steps were parallel for each of the three sections. North and west to the 450 rain
isohyet we characterized 10 ecosystem-units. Mediteranean maquis develops on mountains
and hills characterized by different soil types. Since there is no limitation of precipitation, we
predict, according to researches and models (E.g. Kadmon & Harari-Kremer, 1999; Shachak
et al., 2008), that most of the areas, without interference, will grow to a continuous closed
canopy structure maquis or forests (Davies & Moss, 2002). For that reason we included all
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the potential succession stages: batha, garigue, maquis and evergreen native forests in the
same unit, without reference to the existing vegetation form.
Fig. 3: Ecosystem-units of Israel and The Palestinian Authority
The ecosystem-unit of the Light soils in the “Sharon” coastal plain consist three
different rock-soil formations: the carbonized-cemented quartz sandstone (Kurkar) ridges,
reddish brown loam (Hamra) and Husmas which is a buried Hamra soil with calcareous
nodules (Shapiro, 2006). All of the rock-soil formations are stages in a geomorphological
process of Pleistocene sand dunes under changing humidity of climate regimes (Nir, 1989;
Neev & Ben-Avraham, 1977). In the past the Sharon was covered by maquis or Quercus
ithaburensis forest, but during the 20th century the fertile soils and the moderate landscape
were attractive to new agriculture and settlements respectively, resulting in rare and fragment
patches of the original habitat. The rock-soil elements of the ecosystem-unit are unique
locally and globally and the annual vegetation has many endemic and endangered species
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(Shmida et al., 2011). The unit was mapped from the soil map, and delineated from adjacent
units according to changes in soil types surrounds it.
The ecosystem unit of Alluvial valleys under Mediterranean climate is characterized by
its montmorillonitic clay soil. The soils are well developed and are the outcome of fluvial
transportation (Alluvium) or slopes erosion (Colluvium). The relatively deep fertile soils
accumulate in large topographic depressions (Rabikowitz, 1981; Shapiro, 2006). We
included alluvial depression soils in a single unit because of the clay mineral traits and
because most of the ecosystem unit is under intense agriculture regime, leaving only hints of
potential native vegetation. The present native vegetation is described as segetal and similar
species characterize all valleys (Zohary, 1980). The lines separating between valleys and
adjacent units are the topographic-geologic change from the plane alluvial soils into steep
slopes constructed of limestone, chalk or basalt rocks of the surrounding mountains. The
ecosystem-unit of coastal sand dunes gets its uniqueness from the physical traits of the sand
grains. Low water availability, high salinity, and high radiation create desert abiotic
conditions under 450-800 mm of rain. The unit was mapped from soil maps. Four other
ecosystem-units can be distinguished in the Mediterranean climate region. The Park Forest
unit describes a landscape with scattered trees accompanied by annuals. The main trees are
Quercus ithaburensis and Ziziphus spina-christi and the annuals dominated by Gramineae
species. Climatic and topographic gradients (Zohary, 1980) as well as human impacts like
cairns (Kaplan & Gutman, 1999) are the main reasons for its appearance. Hence not a single
thin line can separate the unit from the Mediterranean maquis unit. The line was drawn
according to an acceptable botanic separation in the literature (Zohary, 1980; Waisel, 1984).
The ecosystem-units of Mount Hermon, the highest elevations in this classification, were
separated upon altitude gradient (Auerbach & Shmida, 1993). Deciduous forest was mapped
according to topographic altitude 1300 1800 m line, while Taragacanthic spiny shrub
batha covering the peaks of Mt. Hermon were mapped up to 1800-2200m. The
ecosystem-unit of the Rocky shore appears at the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea. The
ecosystem unit is the transition zone between land and sea. Most of the bedrocks are eroded
table or rimmed terraces of Pleistocene carbonized-cemented quartz sandstone (Kurkar),
(Neev & Ben-Avraham, 1977) that differentiates this unit from the adjacent Coastal Sand
Dunes unit. It was mapped from orthophoto. Shoreline saline flats were described at the
estuaries of the Na'aman River and the Kishon at the Haifa bay. The ecosystem-unit soils are
salty because of seawater rising during winter storms, or driven by western winds. Mapping
the ecosystem relied on old topographic map (PEF 1880, Palestine Exploration Fund) and
upon vegetation descriptions of the present work. Today only remnants of the ecosystem can
by seen due to high development pressure on the Haifa-Acre metropolitan area.
At the 200-400 mm of rain we described four ecosystem-units. The Semi steppe batha
surrounds the Mediterranean maquis unit from east and south. The climatic conditions
governing the unit are a combination of local and global phenomena. The north-east part of
the unit is influenced by topographic steep change in elevation from the top of the Samaria
ridges at 800 m in average, to 200m towards east in the Dead-Sea Rift valley. The
phenomenon is termed 'rain shadow-desert' since the clouds dropping through the steep
topographic gradient lose their precipitation (Kutiel et al., 1995). In the south part of the unit
the climate conditions resemble the transition zone between the Mediterranean climate and
the global northern desert belt. The ecosystem-unit is represented by small thorny shrubs
with no trees (Danin, 1992). Since it is a transition zone the border lines are hard to draw. We
drew these upon vegetation maps (Zohary, 1980; Danin, 1992).
Alluvial valleys in arid climate were determined upon the union of various types of
alluvial soils along the Jordan valley from the Dead-Sea in the south up to Beit-Shean Valley,
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south of the Sea of Galilee, in the north. We distinguish this unit from the Mediteranean
alluvial valleys because the soils have developed under arid climate conditions. The arid semi
desert climate with a high evaporation/wetting ratio causes the soil to become more salty.
High carbonated and high-gypsum soils called Serozems soils develop on old lake-marl
(Shapiro, 2005). Large portions of the ecosystem-unit are under an intense agriculture
regime.
The ecosystem-unit of Sand dunes or sandy soils in the desert is a type governed by the
sand grain physical traits. The water availability at the upper parts of the ground is low and
the grains drift in the wind preforming dunaric landscape. In one place the sand covers
vegetation and in another place roots are exposed. The ecosystem unit is scattered and
consists of large sand fields under the 200 mm isohyet, containing manly quaternary Aeolian
sand. It was mapped from soil map.
The loess plains ecosystem-unit differs from other units by the physical characteristics of
the loess particles and the landscape it forms. The loess plain soils are an accumulation of
dust particles drifting by storms from the Sahara and Sinai desert. Only the tiny grains reach
the region through the atmosphere, sinking and accumulating by shrubby vegetation in desert
edges (Yaalon & Dan, 1974; Tzoar & Pye, 1987).The tiny clay minerals causing a poor water
regime. The moderate landscape and the semi fertile but friable soil are intensively settled
and cultivated.
The ecosystem-unit of Shrubby steppe of the Judean desert and the Negev Mountains
is separated from other neighboring ecosystem-units by the two-phase patch habitat of
scattered shrubs (Zohary, 1980; Danin, 1987; Shahak, 2010), without annuals between the
shrubs. The vegetation pattern described is changing on a gradient from south west to north
east. The peaks of the Negev Mountains (up to 1000 m) experience numerous night of dew,
hence dense and uniform slopes cover by shrubs, while moving north east the pattern and the
uniformity are less pronounced. To the north the ecosystem-unit is topographically higher
than neighboring topographic depressions of the loess plains and the desert sand dunes. To its
south a sharp topographic gradient occurs, hence the precipitation and climatic gradient
changes the vegetation pattern, turning it to a distinct ecosystem-unit.
South and east of the 100 mm of rain, we described three more ecosystem-units. In the
ecosystem-unit of the Extreme xeric desert in the southern Negev, vegetation is contracted
to wadis. The ecosystem-unit covers a variety of rock formations like granite and
metamorphic rocks in Eilat Mountains as well as limestone and chalk. Since the limiting
factor is the unpredictable rain regime, the soil or the rock type has a limited impact on
vegetation type. Yet, inside this previous ecosystem-unit we can separate extremely wide
wadis and the Arava valley as a distinct unit. The unit is notable for a scattered but dense
population (compared to the surrounding extreme desert) of Acacia trees. The long
topographic depressions of the wadis and the Arava are filled by conglomerate, pebbles and
gravel (Zilberman et al., 2011), which significantly improve the underground water regime
enabling the trees to thrive, attracting a highly diverse micro and macrofauna. The
geologically very active Rift valley caused the emergence of undrained topographic
depressions. Flood water accumulates and seeps but high solar radiation causes fast
evaporation and the soil becomes saline (Nir, 1989; Franzen, 2013). The Desert saline
ecosystem-units have pronounced vegetation belts. The outer most belts can support Acacia
trees, replaced by Tamarix spp. or Nitraria retusa in the inner belts then a bare salty ground
in the middle of the saline. The ecosystem-unit is scattered in a few fragment patches along
the Arava valley and in the lower Jordan valley.
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Land use Map
In order to perform spatial analysis of the ecosystem-units map we, carried out a parallel
process of creating a continuous national land use map. We have selected GIS layers of
several sources. The national master plans number 8 refers to nature reserves and national
parks (Ministry of interior, 1981; Tal, 2008). Forest and afforestation derived from national
master plan No. 22. Out of these master plans, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the
KKL-JNF (Jewish National Fund actually are the managers of planted forest and large native
landscapes in Israel) respectively, can promote, through rural to national planning
committees, declaration of protected areas. Other land use layers were military zone,
agriculture, built area, roads and railway infrastructure.Since the aim of the land use map is to
intersect with the ecosystem-units map we decided to avoid parallel land uses e.g. military
zones that overlap nature reserves, agriculture inside nature reserves or longitudinal
infrastructures (roads, and railways) that overlap built areas. We used a methodology that
ranks land use factors and prioritizes them (Table 2). The categoriesare listed according to
overlapping priorities. The first categories will encompass lower categories. Encompassed
portions of lower categories were not included in the final map. The GIS layers were
converted into raster format and the final combined layer was obtained through a sequence of
logical conditions, favouring priorities for conservation, among the land use layers. In order
to avoid large areas that have no land use definition we use a wide range of sources from
various ministries and layers for the Survey of Israel (Table 2).
Table 2: Categories list forming the land use map
The categories are listed according to overlap priorities. The first categories will overlay lower
categories. Overlaid portions of lower categories will not include in the final map.
*INPA Israel Nature and Parks Authority. **KKL-JNF - Jewish National Fund actually are the managers of
planted forest and large native landscapes in Israel. The forest division of the JNF follows the instructions of
Israel master plan # 22. Native forest for conservation according to master plan #22” may include areas which
are not forests at all and that this class corresponds to land use and not to land cover. ***IDF Israel Defense
Force.
Source
Category / layer name
INPA*
Declared Nature reserves
INPA
Declared National Parks
INPA
Approved nature reserves according to detailed plans derivate from master plan # 8
INPA
Approved national parks according to detailed plans derivate from master plan # 8
KKL-JNF**
Native forest for conservation according to master plan #22
KKL-JNF
Native forest for cultivation and care according to master plan #22
KKL-JNF
planted non-native forest according to master plan #22
INPA
Proposed nature reserves and national parks
Survey of Israel
Transportation infrastructure
Survey of Israel
Built area
Survey of Israel
Aquaculture - Fish ponds
Survey of Israel
Water bodies
Survey of Israel
Agriculture (fields and plantation)
Survey of Israel
Agriculture (greenhouses)
IDF***
Military zones
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Analysis of Ecosystem-units vs Land-use
The last step of the project was to intersect between the two maps. The output points to
ecosystem-units that are underrepresented in natural protected areas based on the CBD, Aichi
Biodiversity Targets category c Target 11 recommendations. The convention recommends
the conservation of 10% of each type of coastal and marine areas and 17% of each type of
terrestrial ecosystem. We emphasize the natural protected areas because under master plan
No. 22 there are vast areas of non-native planted forest. Therefore while calculating
percentage of natural protected areas we considered all declaration stages (proposed,
approved and declared) in master plan No. 8. For master plan No. 22 we have chosen only the
native types of forests Natural forest for conservation and Existing or proposed forest park
(Kaplan, 2011).
We explored the land use of all ecosystem-units in order to understand better the possible
steps that can be taken to improve conservation or biodiversity representation in
non-protected areas. Moreover we calculated the natural area left for each ecosystem-unit.
That procedure was possible due to new layer that separates native areas from non-native
ones: built areas, infrastructures, agriculture ext.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Ecosystem-units representation in protected areas
Nature reserves and national parks are spread from north to south along the whole region.
But the spatial distribution of nature reserves is uneven among the different ecosystem-units
and especially north and south of the 200 mm isohyet. While north of that line there are
numerous small nature reserves, south of it, under the desert climate, there are few but very
large nature reserves (Figure 4). Since each ecosystem-unit has its own uniqueness in
biodiversity we assume that good representation of all ecosystem-units in protected areas will
represent the overall biodiversity in the region. In principal larger areas can support more
species (MacArthur & Wilson, 1967). However in the aridity gradient of the region, we need
less Mediterranean or sub-Mediterranean area to represent its biodiversity in comparison to
the arid ecosystems of the desert area. Apparently because of productivity that stems from
climatic-physical condition, the desert ecosystems will support fewer individuals per unit
area, especially of closely related species with the same body mass, compared to
Mediterraneanareas (Huenneke & Noble, 1996).
The human population distributions of Israel and the Palestinian Authority are uneven over
their territories. In Israel most of the human population lives north of the 200mm isohyet and
along the coast line. In The Palestinian Authority the population is concentrated along and
west of the Samaria-Judean ridges and north of the 200 mm annual precipitation isohyet.
In both cases the terrestrial ecosystem-units overlapping these areas are under-represented
in protected areas. These ecosystem-units are: Loess plains, Sandy dunes or soils along the
coast line, Coast line saline, 'light soils' (Hamra Husmas and Kurkar) in the Sharon, and
alluvial valleys in both arid and Mediterranean climate. The Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee
are not represented satisfactory in protected areas as well. Surprisingly even the
Mediterranean maquis, one of the largest ecosystem units definednorth of the 400mm
isohyet, is not well represented in strict nature reserves. Adding national parks and native
forests of master plan No. 22 the protected areas reach the 17% destination (Figure 5).
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Fig. 4: Protected areas in Israel and the Palestinian Authority
South of the 200 mm zone large areas where declared and serves as nature reserves and military zones.
North of the 200 mm line the protected natural areas are small and scattered. Source INPA GIS unit.
Scott et al. (2001) described similar results concerning the biodiversity representation of
species in nature reserves in the United-States ecoregions. Species of lowland fertile soils and
fertile soils ecosystems in valleys were poorly represented in nature reserves. Troupin &
Carmel (2014), have found the same underrepresentation phenomena for birding bird species
in Israel. Joppa & Pfaff (2009), have shown that the underrepresentation of ecosystems of
fertile soils or lowlands is a worldwide phenomenon. Devillers et al. (2014), have pointed
a bias while deciding on Marine Protected Areas (MPA) around the world. They claim that
nature protection organization are "favouring ease to establish MPAs on need for protection
areas" hence continuing the 'business as usual' processes of establishing protected areas that
fail to well represent and defend local biodiversity.
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Fig. 5: Representativeness of the Ecosystem-units in native protected areas in Israel
and the the Palestinian Authority
Total ecosystem-unit area, Nature reserves & National Parks, Declared & Approved (%),
Native Forest types of Master Plan # 22(%). The dashed line is the 17% recommendation for
terrestrial protected are according to the CBD Aichi convention.
Land-use analysis
Overlaying the ecosystem-units map with the land use map in GIS, allowed us to identify
possible solutions or acts that can improve biodiversity representativeness. Figures 6A-D are
an example of that analysis of four selected ecosystem-units.The proposed nature reserve
segments (red color), in all pie charts are the next step of actual protection of more landscape
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in a particular ecosystem-unit. It is notable that future addition of nature reserves in the
alluvial valleys in the Mediterranean climate (Figure 6D) and in the Light soils in the Sharon
(Figure 6A) is less than 1.5% and 0.5% respectively.
Further steps for locating possible landscapes for conservation in these two
ecosystem-units will be done by investigating the unmapped segments. The protected areas
in the Mediterranean maquis (Figure 6C) seem sufficient but in reality there are three large
protected areas of maquis, separated by tens to hundred kilometers: Judean Mt. National
Park, Mt Carmel National Park and Nature Reserve and Mt. Meron Nature Reserve. All other
reserves are small and fragmented by settlements and roads. Future declaration of reserves
can improve the connectivity in that ecosystem-unit.
Fig. 6: Land use analysis of four selected ecosystem-units. In brackets the total area of
the unit is given:
A.' Light soils' in the Sharon, (607 Km2) B. Accacia trees in the Arava valley (875 Km2), C.
Mediterranean maquis (5,838 Km2) and D. Alluvial valleys in Mediterranean climate (3,077 Km2).
In order to have sufficient biodiversity representation in the southern xeric ecosystem large
areas are needed. The ecosystem-unit of the Acacia trees in the Arava valley and in wide
wadis (Figure 6B) are well represented in protected areas, but the pie chart does not show the
whole picture. Most of the protected areas are within the wide wadis like Paran, Ketzev and
Hayun (Figure 3), whereas areas in the Arava valley are not protected. The unmapped land
uses and the military zones segments (in the pie chart) in those areas are the next challenge of
adding more protected areas to the ecosystem-unit. In our region, under political complexity,
the combination of military zones and nature reserve (Oren, 2007), had proved as
conceivable under collaboration between the Ministry of Defense and INPA.
A
B
C
D
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In order to understand how much natural landscape of each ecosystem is still available, we
have reduced the protected areas from the total natural area of an ecosystem-unit (Figure 7).
Although it seems that previously stated non-represented ecosystem-units still have large
natural area for conservation. These areas are very small highly fragmented or under
anthropogenic pressure like illegal cultivation of the landscape. For example Kurkar and
Hamra ('Light soils' in the Sharon) and the two types of the alluvial valleys are highly
fragmented while the loess plains suffers from seasonal cultivation regime cause by the local
Bedouins as part of their struggle over land ownership.
Fig. 7: Analysis of the natural area left in each ecosystem-unit
* These ecosystem-units are highly fragmented hence the actual size of relevant areas for conservation
are very small. ** The loess plains ecosystem unit is under high pressure of illegal seasonal cultivation.
Lakes and Rocky Shore ecosystem-units were excluded from the analysis.
Possible solutions for biodiversity representation
The under-representation of ecosystem-units under dense populated and cultivated areas
presents a great challenge for native biodiversity conservation. The vulnerability of
ecosystem-units stems from their nature. A closed ecosystem like the fresh water lake of the
Sea of Galilee is highly vulnerable due to anthropogenic factors occurring in its basin:
intensive grazing, fish ponds aquaculture and intensive agriculture. Nevertheless it became
a water supply reservoir with huge water levels difference between winter and summer and
was deliberately or unintentionally populated by non-native fishes and organism. Restoration
or even preservation of that ecosystem is complicated and demands great efforts among
many stakeholders across the whole basin.
Alternatively open ecosystems like the mediterranean maquis can recover fast while
reducing anthropogenic impact. Hence in that sense its vulnerability is low. Promoting
declaration of more areas as protected areas is nearly impossible in the crowded parts of
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Israel and under the present political situation in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Scott et
al. (2001) had pointed at the need of collaboration with private property owners in order to
better represent the biodiversity in the ecoregions that were found underrepresented. In our
region most of the land is owned by the government, hence the collaboration must run
through many stakeholders including farmers, ministries and municipalities prior or in
parallel to NGO initiatives. Further more Soulé & Sanjayan (1998), have questioned the need
for conservation targets claiming that globally and locally success is achieved only for
'non-commercial' ecosystems or landscape.
Understanding the obstacles in declaration procedure, other options of biodiversity
conservation are applicable. In the ecosystem-unit area of the Sharon light-soils and in the
alluvial valleys under mediterranean climate several agri-environmental initiatives are taking
place. In all cases the initiatives stem from a combination of a local situation like soil erosion
or drainage solutions or even consideration of losing the last traditionally cultivated valley,
converting it into intensive agriculture like all others. The INPA helps promoting these
projects using biodiversity considerations in order to better represent the native biodiversity
of a particular ecosystem-unit. For example local flora, instead of wheat, is used to prevent
soil erosion in the Light soils of the Sharon. Giant reed Arundo donax is used to prevent the
distribution of Ambrosia confertiflora along alluvial streams preventing it from spread into
near by alluvial fields. Other ways of strengthening native biodiversity in non-representative
ecosystem-units are by including instruction in rural or even national plans that supports
local biodiversity, by direct planting local herbs or by instructions that aim to eliminate or
prevent invasive species. But even inside protected areas the INPA is implementing
management that aims to restore or preserve local biodiversity. In coastal sand dune reserve
the INPA exposed sand dunes covered by natural woody vegetation, which had been losing
many sand dwelling organisms (Bar, 2013). In maquis and even in small reserves in the
Sharon INPA's rangers reduce mechanically (not only be grazing) woody vegetation in order
to gain more native species in the same protected landscape. Trupin & Carmel (2014),
pointed out that nesting bird species are poorly represented in protected areas in the north part
of Israel (without the the Palestinian Authority and the Golan heights). They concluded that
the combination of the two strategies of land sparing and land sharing will achieve the best
biodiversity representation.Tear et al. (2005), suggested using Marxan procedure to identify
important areas containing large number of species while Pfab et al. (2011), demonstrated an
interesting way of combining threatened species habitat and distribution in consideration of
regional planning. Altogether in our region in order to represent the natural biodiversity
several strategies should be adopted. Management inside protected areas but also improve
natural and semi natural condition in open non protected areas like agriculture and planted
forests. It can be achieved through collaboration in regional planning involving stakeholders.
The framework for regional planning should base on biodiversity data, achievable goals,
review of existing conservation areas and on the action and monitoring that should be taken
in order to accomplish the plan goals (Margules & Pressey, 2000).
In future work we plan to define sub units of the ecosystem-units presented here. We will
try to implement the methods of the IUCN CEM group (Rodrigue et al., 2011) and are
considering of writing the red book for ecosystems in the region.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
We thank an anonymous reviewer for his thoughtful comments and suggestions. We are
grateful to Dr. Linda Olsvig-Whittaker for guiding us through the writing of the article.
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... The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recognizes the upper Jordan River as one of the Freshwater Key Biodiversity Areas in the Mediterranean basin (Darwall et al. 2015). Previous studies have found the upper Jordan region to be diverse (Rotem and Weil 2014), rich in endemic species of invertebrates (Por et al. 1986, Bromley 1988, fish (Goren and Ortal 1999), and algae (Barinova and Nevo 2010). The marshes of the eastern Hula valley (HV) are the only known location of the rediscovered, 'living fossil', Hula painted frog (Latonia nigriventer) (Bina Perl et al. 2017). ...
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Thesis
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Groundwater recharge and contaminant transport in fractured karstic aquifers are difficult to quantify due to the heterogeneity and complexity of the rock mass, including preferential flow paths along karst conduits. The present study aimed to assess how changes in the lithology and structural differences in fractured karst systems influence flow and transport in the unsaturated zone. One particular goal of this research was to develop a mathematical model for quantifying water flow and contaminant transport processes in the karst/fractured-porous unsaturated zone and groundwater. The research was conducted within the fractured carbonate Western Mountain aquifer (Yarkon-Taninim) of Israel, one of the country's major water resources which partially flows through a karst system. The aquifer extends from south of the Carmel Mountains, in the north, to the Sinai Desert in the south and from the Judea and Samaria Mountains in the east to the Mediterranean coastline in the west. The aquifer is composed of the Judea group, which mainly contains carbonate sections aged Late Albian to Turonian (Arkin and Braun, 1965; Arkin and Hamaoui, 1967; Ben Gai et al., 2007). The group represents a stable carbonate platform depositional sequence (Sass and Bein, 1982). Syndepositional and postdepositional environmental conditions created spatial variations in carbonate contents which created different basic settings for the aquifer’s development. The sedimentary sequence, when saturated, is divided, traditionally, into two separate limestone/dolomite sub-aquifers by the Moza formation’s chalk/marl aquitard (Bida, 1986; Guttman, 1986; Mercado, 1980). However, other sub-aquifers exist locally above and between relatively impermeable layers. This division is mostly noticeable in the phreatic and unsaturated zone where perched aquifers exist, mainly at the Aminadav formation with some at the Soreq and the Kefira formations. Yet, the relatively impermeable aquitards do not completely prevent water from being transferred between the sub-aquifers. In some places, water is transferred between the sub-aquifers directly because of a lateral facies change in which the aquitard is missing. In other places, severe fracturing breaks the aquiclude continuity, enabling different aquifers to be hydrologically connected (Peleg and Gvirtzman, 2010; Weiss and Gvirtzman, 2007).The experimental investigation included monitoring changes in groundwater level, surface water, raw sewage flow, and assessment of groundwater and runoff quality. The numerical models were applied to analyze observation results. The observed groundwater levels were analyzed with a one-dimensional, dual permeability numerical model for water flow in variably saturated fractured-porous media. The model was calibrated and used to estimate groundwater recharge in nine locations. The recharge values exhibit significant spatial and temporal variation with mean and standard deviation values of 216 and 113 mm/year, respectively. Based on simulations, relationships were established between precipitation and groundwater recharge in each of the nine sites studied and compared with similar ones obtained in earlier regional studies. Simulations show that fast and slow flow path conditions also influence the annual cumulative groundwater recharge dynamic. In areas where fast flow paths exist, most of the groundwater recharge occurs during the rainy season (60–80% from the total recharge for the tested years). In locations with slow flow path conditions, the recharge rate stays relatively constant with a close to linear pattern and also continues during the summer season. A lumped continuous model (HEC-HMS) was applied to simulate runoff flow and karst aquifer recharge in three sub-basins along the ephemeral Soreq stream. Two primary infiltration mechanisms were identified during the study. The first is diffuse groundwater recharge, which occurs at hillslopes over the majority of the study area. The second infiltration mechanism is direct groundwater recharge, which happens as a result of surface flow infiltration through highly developed karst conduits along the Soreq creek. Results of simulations show that such an approach can be used to describe the spatial distribution of groundwater recharge. The calculated recharge volumes align with results from previous studies. However, the present methodology also allows for the quantification of the annual recharge via direct infiltration through the creek bed. In the highly developed karst system studied, direct infiltration accounted for 19.2% of the annual recharge volume. Moreover, the present methodology allows for the assessment of potential infiltration from the creek bed. Subsequently, the users of the methodology are able to evaluate watershed management practices that could potentially improve artificial enrichment of the aquifer.A quasi 3D dual permeability mathematical model was developed and applied to simulate the Carbamazepine (CBZ) transport in both the vadose and saturated zones of the karst aquifer. The results of the simulation show that after the sewage leakage stopped, significant amounts of CBZ (up to 95%) were retained in the porous matrix of the unsaturated zone, below the source zone. Water redistribution and slow recharge during the dry summer season contributed to elevated CBZ concentrations in the groundwater in the vicinity of the creek and tens of meters downstream. During fast flow events the aquifer vulnerability increased due to: low solute exchange rate, lesser diffusion of contaminant into the matrix and a greater mass of CBZ reaching the groundwater from the unsaturated zone. As a result, there was a larger spread of CBZ throughout the aquifer. Finally, the quasi 3D dual permeability mathematical model was used to simulate transport and attenuation of CBZ and of Caffeine (CAF), as conservative and reactive tracers, respectively. Most model parameters were estimated by using a CBZ breakthrough curve from an observation well, while 1st order decay and linear sorption coefficients were assessed for CAF. The estimated half-life and the partition coefficients of CAF were 7.6 days and 0.1 L/kg, respectively. The results of the simulation showed that by the end of the year, significant amounts of CBZ were retained in the porous matrix of the unsaturated zone below the creek, and tens of meters downstream in the groundwater; while all the CAF was degraded soon after the leakage stopped. The outcomes of this research indicate that this modelling approach can be useful to describe major mechanisms of flow and transport under the considered conditions. However, the main limitation of the applied model is the assumption that there is only vertical flow in the unsaturated zone. In places where low permeability layers in the unsaturated zone extend significant distances, conditions for developing perched water bodies and essential lateral flow may limit use of 1D or quasi 3D models.
... The flow characteristics in the unsaturated zone were described by [32,33], who demonstrated a source-response mechanism between precipitation and groundwater level. The vegetation in study area is defined as Maquis and forests [34]. The dominant plant cover is evergreen shrubs, with the main species being Palestine oak and Pistacia palaestina. ...
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Sustainable groundwater production from karst aquifers is primarily dictated by its recharge rate. Therefore, it is essential to accurately quantify annual groundwater recharge in order to limit overexploitation and to evaluate artificial methods for groundwater enrichment. Infiltration during erratic flood events in karst basins may substantially contribute to aquifer recharge. However, the complicated nature of karst systems, which are characterized in part by multiple springs, sinkholes, and losing/gaining streams, impede accurate quantification of the actual contribution of flood waters to groundwater recharge. In this study, we aim to quantify the proportion of groundwater recharge accrued during runoff events in a karst aquifer. The role of karst conduits on flash flood infiltration was examined during four flood and controlled runoff events in the Soreq creek near Jerusalem, Israel. We distinguished between direct infiltration, percolation through karst conduits, and diffuse infiltration—the latter of which is most affected by evapotranspiration. A water balance was calculated for the 2014/15 hydrological year using the Hydrologic Engineering Center-Hydrologic Modelling System (HEC-HMS). Simulations show that 6.8 to 19.2% of the annual recharge volume was added to the aquifer from infiltration of runoff losses along the creek through the karst system.
... (and in summer months, June, July and August) daily average temperatures varies from 51C (23C) at the northern Mountains (at a height of ~900 m), to 51C (24C) at the Carmel and Judea Mountains, 02C (25C) along the coastal plain, 05C (27C) at the northern Negev (semi-arid area), up to 25C (33C) at the southern Rift Valley (IMS, 2016). Combined, Mediterranean maquis (major species being oak trees such as Quercus calliprinos, Quercus ithaborensis as well as other tree species such as Phillyrea latifolia, Pistacia palaestina) and mostly planted forests (major speciesare Aleppo Pine (Pinus halepensis) which is considered as highly flammable(Carmel et al., 2009) and Pinus brutia) cover around 7% of Israel's total area(Rotem and Weil, 2014). Also located in the Mediterranean climate region are Israel's three major metropolitan centers: Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa. ...
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