Decline of wetland ecosystems in the coastal plain of Israel during the 20th century: Implications for wetland conservation and management

Noam Levin, Eldad Elron, Avital Gasith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Severe competition for water and augmented agricultural and urban development in Israel have modified and destroyed wetland habitats. Using historical maps, we mapped the past extent of swamps and natural rain pools along the central coastal plain of Israel and compared this with the present extent as reflected in reports, field surveys and satellite images. Out of 192 swamps and rain pools recorded in historical sources, only 18% (35) still exist today. Extrapolation from 69 new records of rain pools (missing in historical sources), suggests that in the 19th century, before many of the wetlands were drained, transformed to agricultural land, or built over, the number of wetland habitats in the coastal plain was threefold higher. In addition to reduction of wetland number, human activity has also diminished wetland size. In rainy winters wetland areas in the coastal plain in the past were an order of magnitude larger than they are today (27.6 and 2.4 km2, respectively). At present, the existing natural water bodies along the coastal plain are temporary, small, and surrounded by built-up areas and roads. The grave state of the wetlands in Israel underscores the urgent need for protection of the remnant wetland sites. Following the successful example of wetland restoration in the Hula Valley, we recommend restoring various historical wetlands that have been drained.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)220-232
Number of pages13
JournalLandscape and Urban Planning
Volume92
Issue number3-4
DOIs
StatePublished - 30 Sep 2009

Keywords

  • Connectivity
  • Habitat loss
  • Historical maps
  • Rain pools
  • Species accumulation curves

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