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Can siting algorithms assist in prioritizing for conservation in a densely populated and land use allocated country? – Israel as a case study

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image of Israel Journal of Ecology and Evolution

Over the years, Israel's centralized national planning framework and the intense competition on the limited available land played a crucial factor in designing the spatial distribution of the protected areas in Israel. When examining the spatial properties of the protected areas, it was found that they do not adequately represent the variety of the ecosystems in Israel. According to the systematic conservation planning approach, we aimed to examine how optimization algorithms (e.g., MARXAN) would inform us on high priority areas for conservation. We created proxies for anthropogenic disturbance, and for the susceptibility of designating new protected areas subject to existing national and regional land use master plans. Our conservation targets were defined on the basis of the spatial distribution of 461 endangered vertebrate and plant species (red species), as well as by defining and mapping 21 main ecosystems. The results highlight the limited options of significantly improving the representativeness provided by the existing protected areas, due to the diminishing availability of open areas, which may be available to be designated as protected areas. However, the results also emphasize the conservation potential of agricultural land, as well as the need for preserving small and fragmented rare habitats.

Affiliations: 1: GIS Analysis and Remote Sensing at Israel Nature and Parks Authority ; 2: Department of Geography, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem


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