55 Years of Land-Use/land cover Change in Israel:

Drivers and environmental implications

Daniel Orenstein, Jeff Albert and Steven Hamburg

Our research focuses on the drivers of land-use/land-cover change (LUCC) in Israel and the environmental implications of these changes. Drivers may include policy, demographic and economic variables, although the degree of importance of each individual driver may vary according to region and time period and may be scale dependent. Environmental ramifications of land-use/land-cover may be both positive and negative, considering such processes as urbanization, changing agricultural practices, and economic growth, among others.

Quantifying LUCC and identifying the drivers
To describe LUCC processes quantitatively and qualitatively, we are using two data sets – thematic 1:50,000 scale maps from 1946 to the present for three 300 km2 areas across an ecological and demographic gradient, and satellite data from 1984 to the present for the northern two-thirds of the country. We are using the maps to produce a GIS database of developed areas and open spaces in order to quantify land development trends. The satellite data will be used to analyze land-cover changes on a national level and to confirm the applicability of the selected areas for describing nation-wide trends. The LUCC trends will be analyzed alongside economic and demographic trends as well as in relation to the history of land-use policy. Relevant economic, demographic and policy data is being culled from statistical abstracts in Israel, databases of relevant government ministries and bureaus, and from archival sources.

Ecological/environmental implications of LUCC
For the second phase of the research, we are investigating the environmental and ecological implications of land-use/land-cover trends in Israel, using a selection of environmental indicators to measure historical and contemporary environmental impact. The GIS data will be used to assess the quality of open spaces for potential habitat and for ecosystem functioning. Relevant parameters include patch sizes, edge distances and degree of fragmentation. Further, we consider the dynamics of patches of open space that are not themselves changed into developed or agricultural areas, but rather have their own internal dynamic of change due to adjacent modifications of the landscape, due to management practices within those spaces, or due to fluctuating human uses affected by development in other areas.
This research, within the context of Daniel Orenstein’s Ph.D. dissertation research, has been endorsed by the IGBP/IHDP Land Use/Land Cover Change Program.

Figure 1: Israel, with study sites
Figure 2: Population growth and loss of open space.
Figure 3: Methodology of measuring structure density and quantifying open space. Historical maps are georeferenced and each anthropogenic structure is assigned a data point (3a). Using the data point, density grids are generated using a 0.5 km2search radius. Open spaces are defined as areas with fewer than 10 structures per km2 (3b). Administrative boundaries are overlaid on the structure density maps and used to assign additional characteristics to the structure data and to generate development trends for administrative units (3c).
Figure 4: Preliminary results. The amount of land developed, in hectares, for every additional 1000 people.

Aggregate Period 1
(1961-1972) Period 2
(1972-1983) Period 3
(1983-1995) Full Period
North 44 58 58 56
Center 14 2.6 12 9.5
South 14 30 38 28

Non-Jewish 67 24 28 32
Jewish 15 15 26 18

Urban 12 8.7 19 13
Rural 299 464 360 373

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology | Environmental Change Initiative | Environmental Studies | Geological Sciences | Marine Biological Laboratory | Watson Institute

Last updated 10/20/04

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