Country Profiles

Israel - Country Profile

Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Israel presents a unique assembly of species within a small heterogeneous landscape and very rich biodiversity, at the genetic, species and ecosystem levels. As a matter of fact, the country comprises about 3.5 percent of the globally known species. This diversity is amplified through the occurrence of local ecotypes (enhancing genetic variability within species) and by the fact that many populations occur in the country at the periphery of their distribution range. Biodiversity hotspots are mainly concentrated in the two species-rich seas (Mediterranean Sea and Red Sea).

Yet plant and animal biodiversity is now decreasing. Of 2,388 wild plant species, 413 (17.3%) are endangered and only 67 are among Israel’s 268 protected plant species. Moreover, 142 of Israel’s 454 vertebrate species are endangered. Some 28 species went regionally extinct and 6 have gone extinct. The Red Data Book of Vertebrates points out that 35% of the remaining vertebrate species are endangered (20% of avian species, 62% of mammal species and 82% of amphibian species). Finally, compared to the status in 2001, the status of 21 bird species worsened, that of 22 species remained stable and that of 2 species has improved. In terms of the main ecosystems in Israel, trends are mixed: while coastal areas are under an increasing pressure and urban ecosystems are threatened by continuous development and urbanization, there have been some improvements, notably in marine ecosystems (decrease in pollutant loads) and woodland cover. The status of inland water habitats, considered among the most endangered ecosystems, is also ambiguous. Streams show signs of improvement where restoration efforts were conducted, but ephemeral pools, salt marshes and the unique Dead Sea system show continuous degradation, with over-exploitation of water sources leading to deteriorating quantity and quality of the resource which also adversely affects natural ecosystems.

Human well-being is impaired by the decrease in the quality and quantity of ecosystem services that are lost or diminished (such as provision maintenance and control of water quality and quantity, soil retention and fertility, air quality, agricultural crops, harvested species, potential genetic resources for agricultural and medicinal uses, etc.). In particular, the conversion of open landscape to built land conveys economic damage through the loss of ecosystem services, but it also has adverse effects on the cultural heritage and the general well-being of present and future generations: loss of natural assets within the open landscapes and of heritage landscapes; less open space available for recreation and decreased accessibility to the remaining areas; decreased future possibilities for various uses of open landscapes.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Accelerated development and population growth are the major forces behind the main current threats to Israel’s biodiversity. They notably result in the development of agricultural fields (about one fifth of the country’s original ecosystems have been converted in the past to agricultural systems, using 40% of the water supply), and decrease in coastal areas (due to urban and agricultural development, the current surface area of the coastal sands is only 50% of the original size in the early 20th century and hosts 70% of the population). Eventually, this phenomenon participates to habitats fragmentation, degradation and destruction, adversely affecting natural biodiversity. Other threats include invasive species introduction, illegal hunting, pollution and poisoning, road kills, electrocution and collisions with man-made structures, interaction with feral animals. Climate change is also identified as one of the major future threats, along with the continuous drying up of wetlands, since more than half of the vertebrate species and most invertebrate species that went extinct from Israel were associated with these ecosystems.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Israel's National Biodiversity Strategic Plan (NBS), officially termed the “National Plan for Conservation of Israel's Biodiversity”, was adopted in January 2010. The NBS has various components that are included in nine chapters: it presents and discusses the importance of biodiversity; identifies present and future threats to Israel's biodiversity; discusses various biodiversity conservation policies and management guidelines required to address the threats via management of biodiversity and ecosystems; recommends on supportive measures, using regional planning and legal tools and adopting financial incentives and other economic tools that internalize the dependence of development on ecosystem services, promoting research and monitoring, education and public awareness, enforcement and international cooperation; and finally assembles the recommendations to a proposed operational action plan.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Multiple actions and programs have been carried out to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Great efforts have notably been made in terms of conservation. In 2008, nature reserves and national parks that have been officially declared covered 20% of Israel’s land area, though some habitats are only poorly represented. Active management programs are implemented for several endangered species, with future plans to include several more species. For instance, the African Softshell Turtle, a critically endangered species in the Mediterranean region, was relocated from a natural refuge that it inhabited for the last 40 years back to its original habitat – the coastal stream. Also, new active management concepts have been introduced in protected and in other open landscape. They include: wetland habitat restoration through increased water availability, better water quality and modification of land features to increase structural diversity; woodland thinning to increase woodland and shrubland biodiversity and decrease the risk of wild fires; prevention of sand dune stabilization to increase habitat heterogeneity and biodiversity; driving out domestic herds from nature reserves allowing only controlled grazing there; controlling public use of open landscape (restricting the use of 4X4 vehicles, restricting entrance to protected areas, restricting hunting and harvesting); and decreasing disturbance to coral reefs in the Gulf of Eilat. The in situ protection of within-species genetic diversity is carried out on a very limited scale through the protection of small isolated populations via reinforcement, targeted protected areas and maintaining connectivity through ecological corridors. In parallel, ex situ genetic conservation is carried out by collection of seeds to the Israel Gene Bank (IGB) and through collection and rearing of individuals in botanic and zoological gardens and zoos. The IGB’s base collection contains over 26,000 accessions belonging to 1,144 species and a wide collection of landraces. Furthermore, a special program for the conservation of rare and endangered plant species on a national scale is currently being prepared by a professional team led by Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA), aiming to upgrade the attention to rare plant and animal conservation. Preliminary lists of invasive species have finally been prepared by INPA and academics, followed by specific surveys and research.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Regulative tools include some 15 laws protecting habitats and ecosystems, along with special sites, natural assets and trees, while indirect protection to habitats is given through legislative tools regulating land and water uses. Most important pieces of legislation are the National Parks, Nature Reserves, National Sites and Memorial Sites Law and the Protected Natural Assets Law, which provide the legal structure for the protection of natural habitats, natural assets, wildlife and sites of scientific, historic, architectural and educational interest in Israel; the National Master Plan for Nature Reserves and National Parks; the Comprehensive National Master Plan for Building, Development and Conservation; a 2004 amendment to the Water Law, which allocated 50 million m3 water for wetland conservation and rehabilitation; and finally the 2004 Protection of the Coastal Environment Law. Moreover, economic tools for biodiversity conservation are under development, mainly through research studies on the benefits and economic values of ecosystem services and of various types of landscapes and natural assets.

Special attention is drawn to the mainstreaming of biodiversity conservation issues into relevant policy sectors. The major platform to sectoral and cross-sectoral integration is constituted by the National Committee for Sustainable Development (NCSD), which is composed of representatives of relevant government departments, the private sector and civil society. Moreover, extensive cooperation is organized among several administrative bodies: the Ministry of Education collaborates with the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MoEP), Israel Nature Reserves and Parks Authority (INPA), Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael–the Jewish National Fund (JNF-KKL) and various NGOs in developing and implementing educational programs on nature protection and conservation and on sustainable development; the Ministry of Agriculture is currently preparing a strategic plan, with special attention to open landscape conservation, handling natural hazards to agriculture and to policy regarding IAS; the Ministry of Interior is concerned with biodiversity conservation and the protection of open landscape mainly through its planning administration, concerning national, regional and local planning; finally, the Ministry of Science promotes research on biodiversity conservation, mainly through financial support to the Israel Gene Bank (IGB), national biological collections, marine biological research, national and regional biodiversity research projects.

The preparation of the National Biodiversity Strategic Plan (NBS) was domestically funded, with limited resources. Yet some activities where Israel joined an international initiative (such as the EBONE/BIOHAB monitoring scheme) received external funding.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Regarding monitoring of the National Biodiversity Strategic Plan (NBS), two Red Data books were compiled (the Red List of Threatened Vertebrate Species and the first of two volumes of the Red Book of Endangered Plants of Israel) and a National Biodiversity Monitoring Framework was developed, which notably promotes the development of landscape (habitat and ecosystem) and species diversity mapping, monitoring of the dynamics of woody vegetation (serving as indicators for climate change and for important ecosystem function), as well as monitoring of disturbances, drought, invasive species, management practices and their impact.