Israel National Report
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
Impact, Vulnerability and Adaptation
Commissioned by the Ministry of Environment
From the Blaustein Institute for Desert Research
Sede Boqer Campus of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Guy Pe’er (Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology, the Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research, Sede Boqer Campus of
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev)
Uriel N. Safriel (Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology the Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research, Sede Boqer Campus of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and the Department of Evolution, Systematics and Ecology,
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel)
Table of ContentsExecutive Summary *
Climate change scenario
This is the first report of the State of Israel to the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability to climate change in Israel. The presented information and assessments are based on a survey of literature and on interviews with Israeli scientists and policy makers. The following climate scenarios are projected for Israel by the year 2100:
Related environmental changes:
Although these scenarios have a low reliability due to the complexity of climatic factors affecting the region, they are used in this document for assessing impacts.
Impacts and adaptations
In general, most of the impacts of climate change are expected to amplify projected impacts of anthropogenic stresses resulting from accelerated population growth and a higher standard of living; the relative contribution of climate change to the overall impact is not known. Therefore, measures to reduce the overall impact are, by default, adaptations to climate change, whose implementation represents a potential win-win strategy. The only adaptations that are specific to climate change (i.e. unrelated to other anthorpogenic impacts) are those related to high climatic uncertainty. Fewer adaptations are directed to uncertainty than to all other elements of the projected scenario. Because of the high degree of uncertainty of currently available climate change scenarios for Israel, the assessments in the following sections should serve mainly as hypotheses for directing future exploration and research.
Environmental impacts and adaptations
Increased rain intensity combined with a reduction in overall precipitation will diminish vegetation cover and increase surface runoff, leading to desertification, especially in the Negev. The resulting soil erosion, salinization, and loss of vegetation will further increase surface runoff. Agricultural fields—mainly rainfed ones—will become more saline from increased evapotranspiration. Measures for combating desertification, such as afforestation, and methods for rehabilitating and regenerating natural vegetation are also adaptations for climate change.
Increased surface runoff will increase flash floods during peak waterflows, damaging human structures and crops. Possible adaptations include water-sensitive urban planning to reduce surface runoff and promote water infiltration into the soil, and conservation and rehabilitation of natural vegetation in rural areas.
Water supply may severely decrease, falling to around 60% of current levels by 2100, due to sedimentation in reservoirs, salinization and the lack of reservoir recharge. Increased surface runoff will reduce aquifer recharge, and sea level rise and the intrusion of seawater into the coastal aquifer will further damage groundwater. The quality of stored water will degrade due to salinization, and the increased surface runoff will transport dissolved pollutants to waters reservoirs, often causing algal blooms.
Measures already adopted to counter the mounting water scarcity in Israel, such as water conservation and generation of additional water sources (treating and recycling wastewater, desalination and cloud seeding) will also serve as future adaptations necessitated by climate change. The projected climate-change induced widening of the gap between supply and demand will exacerbate water scarcity. Since current artificial water reservoirs are not sufficient to solve the present problems, construction of additional dams and reservoirs might not serve as effective adaptive measures against increased uncertainties and frequency of extreme climatic events.
Delayed winter rains will increase the risk of woodland fires, as most fires occur in autumn when dry vegetative matter peaks. The frequency, intensity and extent of fires will increase due to lower soil moisture, increased evaporation and increased frequency and intensity of heat waves. The increased frequency of fires may offset the high potential of many of Israel’s woodland species for fire resistance and regeneration, and hence woodland ecosystems may be critically damaged. Controlled livestock grazing or reintroduction of wild mammalian herbivores may serve as adaptive measures to reduce woodland dry matter.
Since Mediterranean biomes are projected to shift 300 to 500 km northward and 300 to 600 m uphill with a 1.5oC warming, the Negev ecosystems may be expected to replace Mediterranean ecosystems in Israel. However, due to the fast rate of climate change and the need for propagules to cross through man-made barriers (agriculture, urban areas and other infrastructures), and due to suitable habitats being appropriated by man, whole populations or even species may be lost. Consequent changes in ecosystem structure and function may adversely affect the quality of their services. However, the vulnerability of the different species is difficult to evaluate, and the role of the different species in the provision of ecosystem services is not known. Therefore it is impossible to assess neither which species will be lost nor the impact of their loss.
The ecotone between the desert and non-desert regions of Israel—where peripheral populations of both ecosystems meet—are expected to show the first impacts of climate change. Since peripheral populations of species may be more resistant to climatic stochasticity than their core populations, they might be more resistant to climate change as well. Whereas core populations could become extinct as a result of climate change, ecotone populations will persist and may serve to restore the extinct populations. Adaptations may, therefore, include conservation of ecotones as well as conservation of corridors between biomes— especially along the north-south axis of the country—enabling propagules to migrate and colonizers to move northward with the desert.
The arrival, establishment and expansion of more invasive species will bring more plant, animal and humans pathogens to Israel. In addition, successful penetration of these species into natural communities will lead to changes in ecosystem structure and function.
Specific impacts of climate change include: widening the desert barrier between Europe and Africa for migratory birds traveling through Israel; inundation of coastal ecosystems by sea level rise; degradation of the Red Sea coral reefs due to increased temperatures and elevated CO2; and forest decline due to invasive pathogens, drought, and high frequency of fires.
An increase in atmospheric CO2 (also referred to as CO2 fertilization) will enhance photosynthesis in some (but not all) plants and allow more rapid growth. This will positively affect agriculture and wild plants through different mechanisms: increased photosynthesis, better water-use efficiency, and thus, increased drought resistance. Yields are expected to increase, especially where nutrient deficiency will not limit plant growth. However, although CO2 is expected to somewhat mitigate the effect of heat and drought, the overall effect of CO2 enrichment is still poorly understood.
Finally, climate change will increase tree mortality in planted forests. Afforestation with species that survived recent severe droughts is an afforestation adaptive measure to prevent further deterioration.
Socio-Economic impacts and adaptations
Increases in seasonal temperature variability, storminess and frequency of temperature extremes may endanger cold- and heat-sensitive crops. Greater rain intensities and resulting floods may damage crops in the coastal plain. Drought damages are also expecto increase with the anticipated decrease in water availability, hotter temperatures and shorter winters. More pests and pathogens will not only increase crop diseases but also their sensitivity to drought, and loss of biodiversity may reduce the natural control of agricultural pests. A delayed growing season will cause Israel to lose its advantage over countries in colder climates in early exports of flowers, fruits and vegetables. Finally, fisheries may be affected by increased salinization and reduced oxygen pressure due to elevated water temperatures, and by frequent algal blooms due to increased surface runoff, mainly in the Sea of Galilee.
New crops and varieties, agrotechnological advances and revised water and investment policies are appropriate adaptations motivated not just by climate change impact. On the other hand, delaying seeding time in response to delayed winter rains is a specific adaptation to climate change.
Sea level rise will lead to increased erosion of Mediterranean beaches, due to increased wave impact, changes in current directions and increased frequency of extreme events. This will harm harbors, coastal structures and archaeological sites, and may cause collapse of the coastal cliff in the central sector of Israel’s shoreline.
Israel’s heavily populated coastal plain is most vulnerable to erosion. Sea level rise in the Red Sea will not extensively inundate the land because of the steep drop of the coastal seabed. However, Elat’s narrow recreational beaches and the transportation lines along the beaches may be affected. The fringing coral reefs, however, are expected to mitigate wave impact and damage, and vermetid reefs will similarly protect much of Israel’s central and northern Mediterranean shores.
Increased evaporation and decreased flow from the Jordan River to the Dead Sea may accelerate lowering of the water level. This retreat will further decrease ground stability of the exposed coastal lake beds, with the potential to threaten structures and human life. Increased evaporation in the Dead Sea, however, may increase the efficiency of mining the lake’s minerals.
Sea level rise will decrease the hydraulic slope between water outlets and sea water table, reducing the efficiency of power stations and municipal drainage systems. Together with the anticipated increase in storminess, more frequent and more severe floods are expected, mainly in lowland urban areas. Adaptations include improving drainage systems and urban planning and promoting groundwater recharge in urban planning.
The estimated costs of damages to infrastructure from sea level rise are about $1600 million (U.S.); this figure does not include income lost from drop in tourism, losses of agricultural land, and other damages resulting from reduced water gradient in coastal cities. Adaptations include elevating port structures, protecting low coastal areas and beach front cliffs by breakwaters, and raising power station outlets. In addition, sand carried by northward currents to the southern edges of harbors and breakwaters may be artificially transported further north for deposition in northern coasts, thereby mitigating coastal erosion due to sand deficiency.
A more frequent occurrence of extreme climatic events and greater seasonal temperature variability will increase energy requirements for winter heating and summer cooling of buildings. Energy requirements due to population growth and rising standards of living will rise even more rapidly, however, with an estimated yearly increase of 4%. Designing buildings and urban areas in ways that buffer temperature changes will serve as an adaptation for overall warming and the increased frequency of temperature extremes.
The risk of vector-borne diseases, such as snail tick and mosquito-borne diseases, may increase with climate change. Degradation of municipal and industrial drainage systems will further promote water-related epidemics such as malaria, cholera, dysentery, West Nile virus and giardiasis. Climate-related morbidity and mortality will increase, especially among elderly people, children, and people with chronic diseases. In southern cities, more frequent sandstorms and dust storms will exacerbate human respiratory disorders. Climate change may also affect diseases indirectly through the air pollution; that is, changes in weather patterns may impact pollutant transport and/or formation and change human exposure to pollutants.
Given the level of medical care and standard of life in Israel, climate-change related extreme events will likely impact human health only minimally, and the projected rise in standard of living will itself serve as an adaptation to climate change. Better urban planning that includes, for example, improved drainage systems in coastal cities and design of southern cities so that they will not be affected by erodible particles will provide a healthier environment, which is in itself an adaptation to climate change.
This is the first report of the State of Israel to the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability to climate change in Israel. This is pursuant to Article 4(e) of the UNFCCC that lists among the commitments of parties to “cooperate in preparing for adaptation to the impacts of climate change.” The UNFCCC entered into force on March 1994, and 184 countries ratified it by May 2000, including Israel, which ratified in June 1996.
Climate change is “… a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods” (Article 1(2) of the UNFCCC). The composition of the global atmosphere is being altered by the estimated 6 billion tons of carbon emitted into the atmosphere each year in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2) from burning fossil fuels and the 1 to 2 billion tons emitted from land-use changes. Of these 7 to 8 billion tons, 2 billion are absorbed annually by the oceans and 1.5 to 2.5 billion are absorbed by the global vegetation, resulting in a net annual addition of 3.5 billion tons of carbon (Watson et al 1998). This atmospheric carbon, together with other anthropogenically emitted gases (CH4, N2O, CFCs, etc.) constitute greenhouse gases (GHGs), gases that act as the greenhouse glass by preventing the infrared radiation emitted from the sun-warmed earth to escape to space. Climatic changes during the last century—such as increased global mean temperature of 0.5° C, increased climatic variability and uncertainty, and increased frequency of extreme climatic events (droughts, floods, storms etc.)—are attributed to human interference with atmospheric processes through the emission of these gases (Wigley 1992).
Some researchers relate the observed warming to a recovery phase following the cold period between 1550 and 1850 C.E. (known as the Little Ice Age)1 (Issar 1995). But the rate of climate change during the last century seems to be faster than any changes that occurred over the past 10,000 years (Houghton et al. 1990), strongly implying an anthropogenic effect.
General Circulation Models (GCMs) are the state-of-the-art tool for reconstructing changes in climate since the 19th century, for generating scenarios for future climate change and for deriving impact assessments. First GCMs were based on static simulations, where one atmospheric parameter (e.g. GHG concentration) was changed and held fixed, and the model was then allowed to arrive at a new steady state. In this way, climatic scenarios were provided. Most of these GCMs held CO2 concentrations fixed at double pre-industrial values (i.e., the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere before the “industrial revolution”) in generating scenarios.
In recent years, transient models have come into wider use to generate climatic scenarios. These models include feedback processes that are known to reduce climatic sensitivity to changes in the atmospheric composition, theredecreasing the rate of climate change. They are more comprehensive and, therefore, expected to provide more accurate patterns of climatic changes. In addition, recent models factor in the effect of sulfate aerosols on solar radiation, which was found to further reduce climatic sensitivity and lower the predicted global warming to 3° C for doubling CO2 (Dayan and Koch 1999 and references therein).
The Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES; Nakicenovic et al. 2000)estimates global warming until 2100 in the range of 1.3° to 4.9° C. This is somewhat higher than the Second Assessment Report (SAR) of the IPCC (IPCC 1996) estimate of 0.7° to 3.5° C, because the levels of radiative forcing (perturbance in the balance between incoming solar radiation and outgoing infrared radiation due to a change in atmospheric greenhouse gases concentrations) in the SRES are higher than in the IS92a-f scenarios (predictions for GHG emissions, IPCC 1996). The SRES levels are higher mainly because lower sulfate aerosol emissions are anticipated after 2050. Furthermore, it has been claimed that radiation emitted from the surface of earth at the CO2 waveband is currently almost fully absorbed by atmospheric CO2. Under these conditions, further contribution of CO2 to the atmosphere may not intensify the greenhouse effect1.
Attention must be also directed to the “uncertainty explosion” when GCMs are used to perform impact assessments (Jones 2000). When an emission scenario with a certain degree of uncertainty is used to predict the global carbon cycle response to the scenario, the incomplete understanding of the global carbon cycle creates an even greater uncertainty in predicting the response. The predicted response—which is based on these uncertainties—is then used to predict the global climate response, which is even less well understood. The result is a highly uncertain assessment of global climate response. From this, the regional or local scenario is derived, with a very high degree of uncertainty regarding the effect of global mechanisms on local climate, and hence, on the exposure of local systems. Finally, an extremely wide range of possible impacts will be derived, determined by the high degree of vagueness associated with the various components of the vulnerability, including adaptability based on perceived adaptations.
The objective of the UNFCCC is to stabilize “… greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system … within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened, and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner”(Article 2 of the UNFCCC). To this end, the Kyoto Protocol adopted in 1997 presents an agreement among industrialized countries to mitigate climate change by reducing their emissions an average 5.2% below 1990 levels during a four-year period from 2008 to 2012. However, even if this agreement is fully implemented, it still will not achieve stabilization of greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere, and additional actions will be required to meet the UNFCCC objective. Adaptation, rather than mitigation, is one such action.
Adaptation is the adjustment of an organism or population to a new or altered environment. Adaptation also refers to decisions people make to adjust to the change. Adaptation largely depends on adaptability, that is, the capacity to adapt the relevant systems to their exposure to the change. Exposure refers to the climatic parameters that serve as stimuli to these systems. A system’s adaptability to exposure depends on its sensitivity— the degree to which a system is affected by its exposure—and is determined by the system’s properties. The system’s exposure, sensitivity and adaptability jointly combine to determine its vulnerability, that is, the degree to which it is susceptible to adverse effects of climate change. Thus, the impact on a system depends on its vulnerability. If, for example, the sensitivity to the exposure is great and adaptability is low, then the impact of the change will be high. If, on the other hand, sensitivity to the exposure is great but adaptability is also great (and the means for adaptation are available), then vulnerability is low, and hence, the impact will be small. This document will discuss the impact of climate change on Israel, addressing Israel’s vulnerability to climate change and its available means of adaptation.
The document is based on a survey of literature (referred by (Name, Year) and on interviews with Israeli scientists and policy-makers (referred by number). It is a very preliminary assessment, in part due to the “uncertainty explosion,” and also because it represents the first attempt to collect and integrate multidisciplinary information, directly and indirectly relevant to Israel. It presents climate change scenarios for Israel (Chapter 2); discusses vulnerability, possible adaptations and impacts (Chapter 3), and finally, needs for further research (Chapter 4).
The chapter discusses exposure of the systems in Israel to factors that determine the impact of climate change: temperature, rainfall, and variability. Chapters 3 and 4 will discuss the sensitivity and adaptability of systems to this exposure.
2. FUTURE CLIMATE CHANGE IN ISRAEL
This chapter presents scenarios of climate change and changes in CO2, and the anticipated effect of climate change on sea level. It then describes observed climatic trends in Israel and compares them with the scenarios. The fit between observations of recent past climate with models’ projections for future climate serves to analyze and evaluate the models’ strengths and weaknesses, and to propose the most likely scenarios given our current knowledge and state of the art of the models
2.1 Scenarios for Israel
2.1.1 Climate change scenario
A global-scale scenario cannot be reliably applied to Israel, because of the small size of the country, the coarse resolution of current models and the great spatial inaccuracy of global models.When projecting local scenarios from global trends, climatic models tend to display spatial inaccuracy of certain climatic mechanisms, especially precipitation (Wigley 1992; Mirza et al. 1998). Although incorporating the effect of sulfate aerosols on solar radiation has somewhat improved the models, recent studies show that the effect of urban-pollution aerosols also compromises their accuracy 2 . These aerosols were found to suppress rain, thereby affecting spatial precipitation patterns and, indirectly, spatial temperature changes (Rosenfeld 2000; Rosenfeld and Woodley 2000). The pollution particles act as moisture condensers, increasing the number of water particles and decreasing their size to such an extent that they tend to float in the air instead of colliding, joining and precipitating (Rosenfeld 2000). These tiny particles can remain liquid even under a supercooled temperature of about -40oC, and are thus no longer available for rain production (Rosenfeld and Woodley 2000). In addition to its direct impact on precipitation, rain suppression changes the spatial heat distribution by suppressing the release of potential energy within water droplets into the upper atmospheric levels. Thus, rain suppression affects upper atmosphere processes unfelt by humans, changing regional water and temperature distribution and the dynamics of depressions and highs2.
In order to assess the implications of global climate change for Israel’s coastal region, Dayan & Koch (1999) developed a GCM-derived scenario, using procedures developed by the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia for the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC 1996, the IS92a scenario). The four GCMs of the IS92a scenario were interpolated for stations, and a sub-grid analysis was done for each model, in order to develop scenarios for temperature and precipitation change. Their results predicted 80% to 90% sensitivity to the global climate change. That is, for every 1° C change in the global mean, warming of0.8° to 0.9° C is anticipated in Israel, with a consequent reduction in precipitation. These results are similar to those of Palutikof & Wigley (1996) for the Middle East. However, the use of GCM-derived scenarios is highly problematic in a region that is highly sensitive to local- and regional-scale effects.
Segal et al. (1994) constructed a model of winter cyclone movement and overall water balance in the eastern Mediterranean region and found that a rise in temperature will lead to decreased precipitation due to redistribution of rainfall and an increase in evapotranspiration of up to 13% in summer and somewhat more in the winter. These results suggest an overall trend towards a greater water deficit. Dayan and Koch (1999) assessed a possible increase in storminess suggested by several authors and did not find conclusive evidence for increased frequency of storms or increased rain intensity. The scenario presented by Dayan and Koch (1999) for the coastal region of Israel pertains only to the country’s coastline, which is several kilometers wide3. Nevertheless, it is consistent with previous models (Palutikof and Wigley 1996; Segal et al. 1994), and probably applies to a wider area due to the relatively coarse resolution of the model used. Furthermore, since the coastal region is inhabited by 70% of the population, this scenario is valid for most of the Israeli population.
2.1.2 Sea level rise scenario
An increase in global mean temperature may cause a rise in sea level due to melting glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets, and to the thermal expansion of water (Milliman 1992). , The observed trend of rising sea level is expected to continue with the anticipated global warming. Recent estimates (Nakicenovic et al. 2000) suggest a rise in mean global sea level of 12 cm to 88 cm from 1990 to 2100. In the Mediterranean region, a rise of 18 cm is expected by 2030 and 50 cm by 2100 (IPCC 1996).
The predicted changes are based largely on trends observed from direct measurements. However, the spatial and temporal variations of sea level complicate interpolation from global to local changes. Tectonic movements (Jelgersma and Sestini 1992), which may accelerate or eliminate the effect of sea level change, and withdrawal of water or fossil oil from coastal areas, which accelerates local sea level rise (Milliman 1992), may further exacerbate spatial inaccuracies. The only reliable measurements in the Mediterranean are those taken at the Marseilles port, showing an 18-cm increase since 19004.
In Israel, a local assessment of sea level rise found only a 5-cm to 10-cm rise since 1960, although some consider these figures unreliable because of the small number of measurements taken relative to the high temporal variations in sea level4. Tectonic movements in the eastern Mediterranean, measured through tide-gauge measurements in Haifa and Port-Said, indicate an uplift of +2.8 mm/yr (about 3 cm in a decade) in Haifa and a sinking rate of 4.8 mm/yr in Port-Said (Jelgersma and Sestini 1992). Hence, long-term measurements are needed to accurately assess local changes in sea level in Israel.
2.1.3 CO2 Enrichment scenario
Climate change is primarily attributed to emission of greenhouse gases (GHG), of which CO2 is predominant. The pre-industrial value of 280 ppmv of atmospheric CO2 is expected to double between 2040 and 2065; the 1998 figure is approximately 500 ppmv (Special Report on Emissions Scenarios [SRES]; Nakicenovic et al. 2000). Since atmospheric CO2 is a raw material for photosynthesis, the global-scale atmospheric enrichment in CO2 may promote biological productivity. Changes in atmospheric CO2 in Israel are expected to be the same as in other areas.
2.2 Observed climate change in the region and in Israel
Changes in climate already detected in the region and in Israel may be instructive in assessing the exposure to those changes predicted by the above scenarios. In the following a review of information on such changes is presented.
126.96.36.199 Regional warming
Price et al. (1999) observed an approximate 1oC/100yr rise in annual mean temperature in Cyprus. Alpert et al. (unpublished data) observed the same warming trend in Cyprus, as well as in Italy and Spain. A relatively moderate increase in air temperature was measured in cities of the Mediterranean basin, primarily in winter and less in the autumn and spring (Maheras and Kutiel 1999; Kutiel and Maheras 1998). Most of the increase, however, was measured in cities undergoing urbanization (Kutiel and Maheras 1998).
A spatial analysis of temperature changes in Israel during the last 40 years shows warming mainly in the center and north (Ben-Gai et al. 1998a, 1999), with a cooling trend in the south and around Hadera (the site of a major power station). Thus, there appears to be a general warming trend, with local exceptions related to anthropogenic factors (e.g. pollution particles around Hadera power station) (Ben Gai et al 1999).
188.8.131.52 Cooling trend
Some models and measurements taken in the Mediterranean basin—especially in the eastern Mediterranean—do not show warming trends,(Wigley 1992). Ben-Gai et al. (1999) found no changes in annual mean temperature in Israel between 1964 and1994, at 40 stations. A cooling trend in the autumn of about -0.5oC/100yr was detected in most regions of the Mediterranean (Kutiel and Maheras 1998). Nasrallah and Balling (1996) found a slight but non-significant cooling trend in the Arabian Peninsula over the last 40 years. A cooling trend is also evident from measurements of sea surface temperature (SST). Several authors (Kutiel and Bar-Tuv 1992; Paz et al. 1998b, 2000) have detected a decrease in SST in the eastern Mediterranean. Because seawater absorbs large proportions of the incident solar energy, a decrease in SST reduces energy release into the atmosphere and affects heat distribution in the surrounding. Furthermore, reduced evaporation rates due to lowered SST affects precipitation in the coastal region.
To explain the cooling trend observed in the eastern Mediterranean basin, Conte et al. (1989) hypothesized a spatial Mediterranean Oscillation between the eastern and western Mediterranean basins (similar to a small-scale El-Niño phenomenon). According to this theory, when there is a warm winter in the western basin, there is a cold winter in the eastern basin and vice versa. Although such an oscillation was never proved (Kutiel 2000), some authors did find opposite trends in the western and eastern sides of the Mediterranean, where the western region tends to warm and the eastern region is cooled (e.g. Wigley 1992; Kutiel and Paz 1998; Maheras and Kutiel 1999). An overall warming trend from 1873 to 1989 observed by Kutiel and Maheras (1998) was more evident in the western (+0.4oC/100 yr) than in the eastern basin (+0.2oC/100 yr).
184.108.40.206 Decreased precipitation
Several authors detected a decrease in precipitation in the last decades, primarily in the center and north of the country (Steinberger and Gazit-Yaari 1996; Ben-Gai et al. 1998a). Paz et al. (1998b) detected a decrease in precipitation in most stations in Israel during 1950 to1990. Alpert et al. (2000) suggests an overall trend of a decrease in precipitation over the last decades. The decline in precipitation may be explained by a decrease in the frequency of mid-latitude cyclones in the East-Mediterranean (Druyan and Rind 1993; Gačić et al. 1992). A simulation model (Segal et al. 1994) shows that increasing temperature may shift the cyclone path northward, reducing precipitation in the southeastern Mediterranean. This model, however, is somewhat of an oversimplification of climatic processes, as it assumes that cyclone generation is not affected by climate change.
Some authors ascribe the changes in precipitation primarily to intra-seasonal changes in rain distribution. Paz et al. (1998b, 2000) found that rainfall decreased in winter at most of the 15 stations studied around the Mediterranean (mainly in the eastern Mediterranean) but increased slightly in spring and summer, with no significant change in total rainfall during the pe1970-1990. Sharon (1993), on the other hand, found that changes in annual rainfall varied distinctly among regions in Israel, and only the coastal region showed a constant decline. This suggests that specific regional factors might play an important role in the local climatic trend.
Rainfall measurements at different stations in the Mediterranean basin show similar declines in most regions of the basin (Paz et al. 1998a). High correlation between changes in vegetation and changes in sea level during the last 10,000 years in the Middle East suggests that the trend of decreasing precipitation in the Middle East may be attributed to global warming (Issar 1995).
220.127.116.11 Shortened rainy season
Kutiel (2000), analyzing changes in the yearly distribution of rains in Israel from 1976 to 2000, found that the winter rainy season shortened over this period, particularly in the last decade. The length of period during which the cumulative amount of rainfall reached 20% and 50% of the annual rainfall was extended by 6 days and 4 days per decade, respectively, due to lower rainfall in October and November. This observation contrasts with former reports of increased rains in October (Steinberger and Gazit-Yaari 1996). A delay in winter rains, with no extension of the rainy period7, may explain the decrease in Israel’s total annual rainfall.
18.104.22.168 Increased precipitation in the south
Several authors (Otterman et al. 1990; Ben-Gai et al. 1993; Sharon 1993; Sharon and Angert 1998) have demonstrated an increase, rather than decrease in overall precipitation in Israel’s southern coastline and the northern Negev. They attribute this to an increase in October rains resulting from land-use changes: —afforestation, intensive agriculture under irrigation, and grazing restrictions (Otterman et al. 1990; Ben-Gai et al. 1993; Sharon 1993; Steinberger and Gazit-Yaari 1996; Sharon and Angert 1998). Otterman et al. (1990) suggested that land-use changes caused a decrease in surface albedo and an increase in convection during daytime, conditions that enhanced diurnal rains in October (Otterman et al. 1990). A mesoscale model for this area supported this theory (Perlin and Alpert 2000). Steinberger and Gazit-Yaari (1996) confirmed that precipitation has increased in the south, but found that October rains have increased throughout the country, somewhat undermining the postulate for local, anthropogenic changes as the main cause of increased October rains in the northern Negev (Otterman et al. 1990; Ben-Gai et al. 1993). The long-term effect of these local processes on precipitation, and possibly on desertification, is unknown. Some suggest that land-use changes may merely delay an inevitable drying process due to global warming5, while others claim that they could prevent it6.
2.2.3 Increased frequency of extreme weather events
The temporal and spatial distribution of rains in the Mediterranean basin is highly changeable, with rainfall varying greatly both from year to year and within the year (Kutiel 2000). Even greater variability due to climate change will likely be as important or more important than changes in mean climate conditions for determining climate change impacts and vulnerability (IPCC 1996. Analysis of spatial and temporal long-term trends in climate in Israel showed increased seasonal variability due to a decrease in the maximal and minimal temperatures (Tmax and Tmin, respectively) in the cool season, and an increase in Tmin and Tmax in the warm season (Ben-Gai et al. 1999). These two opposite tendencies, observed at 40 stations over 31 years (1964 to1994), may explain the absence of change in mean temperature. However, analysis of the same data did show increased temperatures in the center and in the north.
Ben-Gai et al. (1998a, 1999), studying the frequency pattern of Tmin and Tmax from 1964 to 1994, divided the years into two sub-periods—1964 to1979 and 1980 to1994—and compared the two. They found increased seasonal variability as well as increased frequency of extreme temperature events, demonstrated by the upper and lower tail of the temperature distributions.
Rains also markedly increased in intensity. Alpert et al. (2000) showed that high-intensity rains increased in frequency, with fewer rains of moderate and weak intensity. Interestingly, former analyses of rain intensity have failed to show this trend (Dayan and Koch 1999 and references therein). Alpert’s analysis supports a prevailing notion of an increased incidence of extreme weather, particularly in the last decade. The high incidence of extreme weather events in Israel during the 1990s is apparent from the following8:
Rather than the expected increase in evapotranspiration rate (Segal et al. 1994), a trend of decreasing evapotranspiration was measured in the eastern Mediterranean (Paz et al. 2000), probably due to the observed lowering of SST. However, with the anticipated increase in overall temperature, and probable increase in SST, the increase of 1.5oC in the Mediterranean basin anticipated in Israel around 2100, is expected to increase evapotranspiration rates by 10% (Jeftic 1993).
2.3 Analysis and Synthesis of scenarios for Israel
2.3.1 Evaluation of Global Circulation Models
As shown above, the observed trends in Israel and the region do not always support a scenario of warming and drying. The discrepancies between model predictions and the actual observations may be only partly due to the complexity of modeling climate change in this region. Positioned at the meeting between subtropical highs and mid-latitude depressions, Mediterranean climate is determined by the combined effects of both global and mesoscale circulation patterns (Dayan and Koch 1999). Spatial climatic models are very sensitive in this area; only minor changes in parameters can significantly influence the results.
The models may be even less reliable in projecting precipitation changes. Israel is located at 30o to32o N latitude; GCMs predict increased precipitation in latitudes above 35o N and decreased precipitation in latitudes below 35oN (Wigley 1992). It might be expected that local and regional processes would affect precipitation, reducing the reliability of such coarse-resolution models. In fact, winter cyclones—the major source of rain in the eastern Mediterranean—are largely responsible for the inaccuracy of the model in this region. Cyclones develop at the area of contact between the subtropical and the middle latitude climate systems, where slight climatic changes affect both their generation and their paths.
In addition, the models do not incorporate the effect of urban pollution aerosols on rain production in the eastern Mediterranean. Both locally generated pollution and pollution originating from Europe may affect temperature and precipitation distribution on regional and local scales and greatly reduce the spatial accuracy of scenarios.
In summary, lack of knowledge and failure to incorporate all drivers of the regional climate, the currently available models have low predictive power when used to project from global to a regionalclimate. A more detailed regional approach is necessary for more precise climate change assessments (Wigley 1992, Dayan and Koch 1999). Such models may also be used to assess the frequency and movements of winter cyclones2 (Gačić et al. 1992; Dayan and Koch 1999).
2.3.2 An integrated scenario for climate change in Israel
Based on the climate scenario of Dayan and Koch (1999) and evaluation of the above observations and models, the following scenario for Israel is the currently most likely one:
The impact, vulnerability and adaptation assessments presented in the following chapters are based on this integrated scenario. Time horizons are not available for most of the climate changes in Israel, so the information is based on a qualitative evaluation of anticipated trends and effects.
3. IMPACTS AND VULNERABILITY
Climate change scenarios can be used to project impacts on various climate-sensitive systems. These impacts depend on the vulnerability of the systems, an attribute that depends both on the sensitivity and the adaptability of the systems. Middle East climate has varied considerably over the past 10,000 years, with changes in precipitation ranging 15% to 40% of the current average rainfall in southern Israel (Issar 1995, 1996). The historical high correlation between human settlement and climate change in the Middle East (Issar 1995) attests to the sensitivity of systems in the Middle East to climate change. Yet, available knowledge does not suffice for distinguishing between sensitivity and adaptability of each of the systems to the climate change projected by the scenarios for Israel. Under the heading “Impacts and Vulnerability” of this chapter we attempt to assess how systems in Israel will react to climate change, whereas the adaptations that might be taken are discussed in Chapter 4.
3.1 Environmental impact
22.214.171.124 Surface runoff, flush floods and inundations
The vegetation of natural ecosystems and rangelands in the semi-arid and arid parts of Israel is a patchwork of clumps of perennial vegetation within a matrix of non-vegetated soil covered by a biogenic crust which significantly reduces the permeability of the underlying soil. The projected reduced precipitation, in synergy with the already initiated anthropogenically-induced desertification processes, will reduce the size and number of clumps, enabling the crusted areas to expand (Shachak et al. 1998). Coupled with the projected increased rain intensity, the expanded biogenic crust will increase the frequencies and intensities of surface run-off events, causing topsoil erosion and loss of water, resulting in further loss of vegetation and hence higher frequency and intensity of run-off events. Thus, climate-change induced increased surface run-off will exacerbate desertification.
The increased rainfall intensity will also increase surface run-off from urban areas. This, together with the increased run-off from open areas will generate more frequent and more powerful flash floods that beside damage to infrastructures and life will lead to an increased water loss, either to the Mediterranean or to the Dead Sea.
The increased run-off, coupled with sea level rise and increased rain intensity may cause flooding and inundations, leading to the creation of swamps. A decrease in the hydraulic slope between drainage systems (or streams) and sea level reduces the efficiency of water transfer and increases the probability of flooding. The lack of efficient drainage systems in the coastal plains, an area of low altitude and high population density, may result in a relatively high vulnerability to projected increases in rain intensity and surface runoff (Garsel et al. 2000).
Finally, the increased frequency, intensity and uncertainty in the occurrence of flash floods will also affect the banks and the riparian ecosystems of permanent streams and the ecosystems of most river basins in Israel that are ephemeral (‘wadis’, Jelgersma and Sestini 1992).
126.96.36.199 Aquifer recharge
Reduced infiltration rates caused by increased surface runoff will also reduce aquifer recharge. With the added effect of aquifer salinization due to (a) sea level rise pushing the freshwater-seawater interface east (Brachya and Rozen 1993), and (b) the accelerated use of ground-water (Jelgersma and Sestini 1992; Garsel et al. 2000), climate change is expected to severely impact Israel water resources. However, Garsel et al. (2000) maintain that changes in groundwater volumes are marginal in comparison with the growing demand due to population growth and elevated standards of living. Yet, damages to Israel’s water economy due to climate change have not been quantified yet10.
188.8.131.52 Surface reservoirs
The projected high spatial and temporal rainfall variability and uncertainty will increase the need for larger annual storage capacity9. Yet average storage volume in Mediterranean basin’s reservoirs is expected to fall by as much as 25% by 2100 due to the overall lower rainfall and increased evaporation. Increased deposition of sediments in reservoirs and channels due to increased surface runoff and soil erosion will fill up to 25% of water channels and reservoirs and further decrease water supply. Altogether water supply in the Mediterranean basin may severely decrease due to mean storage falling to around 60% by 2100 as a result of sedimentation, salinization and the lack of reservoir recharge (Jeftic 1993).
184.108.40.206 Water quality
Increased runoff and soil erosion will leach more ions, nutrients and suspended particles into the water. Agriculture may benefit from the added nutrients but will be adversely affected by salinization. Drinking water quality will deteriorate due to an increase in suspended particles, organic matter and pollutants. Elevated water temperature will reduce oxygen pressure, hence the oxygenation of organic wastes. The added nutrients will lead to excessive growth of algae —eutrophication—which will further increase the organic load and oxygen demand, leading to further decrease in water quality. Water Salinization will also increase due to higher temperatures of water surface and to accelerated evaporation (Jeftic 1993).
3.1. 2 Soil
Decreased annual rainfall and lengthened intervals between rains, coupled with increased temperatures and evaporation, will reduce plant productivity and microbial activity, with a concomitant decrease in soil organic matter. This will reduce water-holding capacity and soil permeability. A resulting increase in runoff velocity and intensity will erode the most fertile topsoil, further reducing productivity.
Soil salinity—already high in drylands such as Israel—will also increase because of higher evapotranspiration and lower leaching effect of the reduced rains. The aggregate effect of soil erosion, salinization, loss of vegetation and increased leakage of nutrients, organic matter and seedswith surface runoff, will lead to desertification in a wide range of lands and habitats, especially in the semi-arid regions of Israel (Imeson and Emmer 1992; Lavee et al. 1998). Soils with reduced vegetation due to overgrazing, collection of firewood, and construction of infrastructures are highly vulnerable to desertification, since the reduced vegetation cover decreases water absorption, increases runoff and causes rapid topsoil erosion and further decrease in organic matter.
Dry sub-humid and semiarid lands in the Mediterranean basin are prone to desertification when impacted with just minor climatic changes (Imeson and Emmer 1992). In areas of sharp environmental gradient that is sensitive to climatic stresses, an increase in human disturbance in response to resource degradation (Le Houérou 1992) could further accelerate desertification, leading to a rapid shift from dry sub-humid (Mediterranean) to semi-arid environments and from semi-arid to arid environments (Le Houérou 1992; Naveh 1993; Lavee et al. 1998). Indeed, this vulnerability is demonstrated by the sharp change in soil structure between Mediterranean (dry sub-humid) and desert (semi-arid) ecogeomorphic systems (Lavee et al. 1998), occurring where annual rainfall is around 300 mm: organic matter rapidly declines, water-holding capacity diminishes and soil erosion occurs more readily. This sharp transition in soil conditions suggests that only a relatively small climatic change is needed to shift the border between desert and non-desert systems in Israel (Lavee et al. 1998).
Irrigated agriculture will also become more susceptible to salinization with the increased evapotranspiration and reduction in precipitation, and more water will be required for leaching salinity. Increased salinization may eventually lead to abandonment and to pressure on putting new land under irrigated agriculture, while the abandoned fields will be subjected to increased soil erosion.
3.1.3 Natural ecosystems and biodiversity
Ecosystems serve mankind by providing goods such as medicinal plants, timber and fisheries, and services such as habitats for biogenetic resources used by plant breeders and for predators of agricultural pests and disease vectors, groundwater recharge, flood control, as well as “inspirational services” including tourism, education and scientific research. Climate change may adversely affect the ability of ecosystems to provide these services. An ecosystem’s structure and function—and thereby its ability to provide services—are determined by its abiotic (soil, water, atmosphere) and biotic components and their interactions. The biota of an ecosystem, namely its animals, plants and microorganisms, and especially the diversity of the biota (biodiversity) is critical to ecosystem function and hence also to those functions that act as services. Climate is a major determinant of plant and animal distribution, and populations or species that cannot either adapt to a changed climate or migrate to other habitats are doomed to extinction. Thus, through its effect on biodiversity, climate change can reduced change species composition, created new species compositions and even significantly reduce ecosystem’s biodiversity, and in these ways detrimentally affect the provision of ecosystem services.
Israeli biodiversity is already impacted by human activity. Urban development and agriculture cause rapid habitat destruction, fragmentation into smaller habitats and loss of connectivity between populations (Andren 1994; Meffe and Carrol 1997), all of which are mechanisms leading to species extinction. Wide range impacts on biodiversity will be discussed first, and then the impacts on several specific unique entities will be assessed.
The already precarious state of the Israeli biodiversity makes it sensitive to climate change impacts, and puts at risk the effective provision of goods and services by ecosystems of Israel. In the following responses to climate change expressed in distribution changes, in loss of biodiversity and in an increase in invasive species will be dealt with.
220.127.116.11 Wide range impacts
18.104.22.168.1 Movement of ranges
Animals are used widely as biological indicators of global climate change, since they reflect the sensitivity of ecosystems to these changes. For example, a northward and upward shift in the distribution of butterflies (Parmesan 1996; Parmesan et al. 1999) and birds (Thomas and Lennon 1999) in the 20th century indicated a warming trend in North America and Europe.
In the Mediterranean basin, a northward shift of 300 to 500 km and an upward shift of 300 to 600 m are projected with a 1.5oC warming (Jeftic 1993). The time horizon for this change, based on a linear extrapolation of Dayan and Kochs’ (1999) scenario, ranges between 2075 and 2107. This projection is supported by data showing that historic desertification in the Middle East correlate with natural climate change, rather than with human activity (Issar 1996). Hence future climate change is expected to affect ecosystems in this region.
In Israel, where flora and fauna originated from several different climatic regions, a species will respond by range change depending on its origin. Cold-sensitive species, usually of southern origin, are expected to benefit from warming, while mesic, heat-sensitive species that usually reach their southern limit in Israel, will be adversely affected (Naveh 1993). Preliminary analysis of butterfly distributions suggests that warming has already occurred in Israel. Eight butterfly species have shifted their distribution northward or been observed at extremely northern locations in the last decades, while 14 other species shifted their distribution southward or were observed at extremely southern locations. In 8 of the latter 14, the shift was attributed to land-use changes in the Negev, namely, afforestation and human settlements (D. Benyamini and G. Pe’er, unpublished data).
22.214.171.124.2 Loss of biodiversity
There is evidence that in the 20th century warming was faster than the shifts in species ranges (Houghton 1990), what may lead to extensive biodiversity losses (IPCC 1996). The Mediterranean basin is one of the 25 recently-defined global “biodiversity hotspots” (Myers et al. 2000) and Israel’s biodiversity is particularly rich given its geographical position as a crossroad between African, Asian and Mediterranean biogeographical regions, each contributing to its biota different species. The speed and magnitude of climate change may elicit different response by different levels of ecological organization, namely the population, the species, the community and the whole ecosystem.
Populations. Small, isolated populations are usually highly sensitive to environmental changes. They often undergo genetic drift (the tendency to lose their genetic diversity, and are therefore expected to be vulnerable to climate change. Barriers to migration between populations (such as habitat fragmentation) increase the risk of extinction of such populations due to climate change. Populations restricted to high mountains in northern Israel (Naveh 1993), and to the coastal plain are highly fragmented and hence at risk. Populations at the edge of the desert will also face sharp habitat changes (Safriel 1993). It is suggested that core populations of a species (in the center of distribution) may be more vulnerable to climatic changes than peripheral ones (on the edge of their distribution). This is because peripheral populations face relatively variable and unstable conditions under which selective forces tend to maintain higher genetic diversity (Safriel et al. 1994; Kark et al. 1999). The highest variability, durability and environmental suitability are exhibited by sub-peripheral populations living in the ecotone habitats (areas of natural ecocolimatic transition), and not by extremely peripheral populations, which are usually small and isolated (Kark et al. 1999).
Species. Endemic species with narrow ecological niches and species whose distribution has narrowed as a result of anthropogenic disturbance are likely to be vulnerable to climate change. Sessile and/or habispecific species are more sensitive to climate change than mobile species (which are usually more common and widespread) that can shift their distribution, invade new landscapes and even benefit from these changes (Houghton et al. 1990). Beyond these considerations, the vulnerability of Israeli species to climate change has not been evaluated.
Communities. The effect of climate change on communities is practically impossible to predict due to the enormous number of factors that determine community assembly12. Slight changes in environmental factors may change the competition ability of different species, leading to dramatic changes in species’ interaction and the consequent community structure. Because Israeli flora and fauna have various origins, the response of species and communities to climate change is expected to differ across lands and habitats.
Ecosystems. Sensitive ecosystems are spatially confined and isolated, in areas of relatively low environmental stochasticity. In Israel these include the coral reefs of the Red Sea, the coastal wetlands, and isolated mountain ecosystems such as those of the Hermon, Meron and Carmel mountains. The most dramatic changes in ecosystem structure and composition are likely to occur in the semi-arid region of Israel, the non-desert/desert ecotone. Kutiel et al. (2000) found that large changes in precipitation patterns may result in a migration of biomes along the ecoclimatic south-north gradient of Israel, with nonlinear changes in species richness and diversity, simultaneously with rapid change in soil properties (Lavee et al. 1998) and vegetation (Naveh 1993).
126.96.36.199.3 Migratory birds
All ecosystems of Israel are affected by the flux of migratory birds that use Israel as a flyway between Europe and Africa twice a year. Many of these birds feed on the resources of these ecosystems, and other are predated. Many of these birds use Israel as a staging area for refueling prior to the desert crossing (in fall), or for replenishing reserves just following the crossing (in spring). Desertification, further exacerbated by climate change, will widen the desert barrier to be crossed by the birds, and will make Israel less hospitable for migration the migrants (Safriel 1995). This would lead to increased migration casualties of birds, such as quails (Coturnix coturnix), that arrive at the southern Mediterranean coasts of Israel, needing to refuel on the dune vegetation after a one-night Mediterranean crossing (Zuckerbrot et al. 1980).
188.8.131.52.4 Invasive species
Whereas climate change is expected to affect detrimentally bird migration over Israel, it is expected to facilitate the immigration of invasive species to Israel especially during extreme climatic events, and the establishment of these species due to the the prevalence of new climatic conditions. More frequent hamsins (dry hot depressions) may bring invertebrates that migrate with the winds. The arrival of migratory butterflies, for example, is correlated with unusual synoptic conditions (Pedgley 1980; Larsen 1985). Five species of rare African migratory butterflies were observed in Israel in1998 following a low-pressure cyclone, which carried masses of hot air from Saudi Arabia into Israel (Simon 1999). Small change in climate may induce significant distribution changes of species moving through the Rift Valley11, such as insects, invertebrates and birds, especially those that do not migrate regularly. New agricultural pests and human disease vectors should therefore be expected.
The projected rise in sea surface temperatures will also increase the rate of species invasion. Many Red Sea species have colonized the Mediterranean Sea following migration through the Suez Canal ( ‘Lessepsian migration’, Por 1978). Some of these species are successfully competing with indigenous Mediterranean species and some are harmful to humans (e.g., Rhopilema nomadica—a jellyfish whose reproduction is temperature-dependent, Lotan et al. 1992; Lotan et al. 1994). With increased warming more Red Sea immigrants will colonize, reproduce and persist in the eastern Mediterranean25 (Agur and Safriel 1981). The consequent changes in the structure and function of the Israeli marine and terrestrial ecosystems due to their penetration by invasive species has not been yet addressed.
184.108.40.206 Unique and threatened entities
Unique entities are restricted to a relatively narrow geographical range but impact, or have the potential to impact other entities beyond their range. The fact that Unique Entities are restricted geographically, points at their sensitivity to environmental variables including climate, and therefore attests to their potential vulnerability to climate change. The possible impacts on these entities (the desert/non-desert ecotone, the Elat coral reefs, the coastal natural ecosystems and woodlands, are discussed in this section.
220.127.116.11.1 The desert/non-desert ecotone
An ecotone is the area of transition between adjacent but different environments, be they habitats, ecosystems, landscapes, biomes or ecoclimatic regions. An Ecotone that is a unique entity in the climate change context is the climatic transition zones between the desert and the non-desert parts of Israel, or between the dry-subhumid and semi-arid drylands, at the edges of the Negev and the Judean Desert. Whereas each of the core areas (Mediterranean and Desert) is large and relatively uniform climatically, the ecotone between them is of a narrow spatial extent but exhibits a steep spatio-temporal ecological gradient. These features make the ecotone unique with respect to the three components of biodiversity – between species (species diversity), within species (genetic diversity) and of ecosystems: First, the diversity of ecological conditions due to the ecological gradient promotes an overall high species richness within a relatively small area. Second, being sandwiched between two ecoclimatic regions, the ecotone’s ecosystem harbors species of both regions; hence it constitutes a unique combination of species (not found in any of the two ecoclimatic regions) that is likely to be instrumental in the provision of unique ecosystem services.
Finally, most species in the ecotone are at their distributional edges, hence represented by their peripheral populations (Safriel et al. 1994). Many peripheral populations are expected to diverge from core populations as a result of isolation, genetic drift and natural selection; hence ecotones enrich the overall within-species genetic diversity (Lesica and Allendorf 1994). Moreover, being influenced by the climates of both adjacent ecoclimatic regions, environmental conditions change across the ecotone also temporally and in an unpredictable manner. This climatic variability induces fluctuating selection that promotes high within-species genetic diversity in each of the ecotone’s peripheral species populations (unlike the core populations of these same species, selected each by only one set of climatic conditions, the one typical to its ecoclimatic region, Volis et al. 1998, Kark et al. 1999).
Thus, though of a limited geographical extent ecotones have a rich and unique biodiversity. But they also influence and are of much significance to distant and larger areas, especially with respect to climate change prospects. First, the ecotone serves as an arena for biotic interactions between the adjacent ecoclimatic regions and biomes. It modifies flows of materials and propagules across the landscape and between regions (Johnston 1993). Second, because peripheral populations are considered major sources for evolutionary change, and since ecotones are rich in peripheral populations, ecotones serve as arena for evolutionary processes likely to generate future evolutionary radiation and diversity (Lesica & Allendorf 1994). Third, the ecotone’s peripheral population of a given species is likely to have genetic types adapted to the climate that is at some periods induced by the desert, and other types adapted to the climate induced by the Mediterranean region, at other periods. Hence, the ecotone population as a whole is resistant to climate change, mothan the core population of that species. Core populations of a Mediterranean species, for example, may lack the genotypes that are adapted to the projected climate change and may therefore become extinct. But peripheral populations will lose the genotypes that are not adapted to that change, yet will persist on account of those genotypes adapted to the change. Ecotones therefore serve as repositories of genetic diversity to be used for rehabilitation or reconstruction of ecosystems of their adjacent ecoclimatic regions if and when these ecosystems lose species due to climate change.
Finally, though ecological changes in response to climate change will occur virtually everywhere in Israel, the signals are likely to be more observable in the desert/non-desert ecotone. Also, the propagules of the ecotones' peripheral populations will be instrumental in the directional climate change-induced shift of ecological communities and ecosystems (Halpin 1997). This sensitivity and response to climate change makes the desert/non-desert ecotone good indicator that can provide an early warning of climate change for other parts of Israel.
18.104.22.168.2 Coral reefs
Although coral reefs are found only in warm tropical waters and occupy less than 1% of the world’s oceans, they contain more than a third of the known marine species (Reaka-Kudla 1996), strongly influence other marine and coastal ecosystems in their regions, and have local and global cultural and economic value. This unique entity is impacted by the separate and aggregate effects of rises in sea surface temperatures, atmospheric carbon dioxide and sea level; by other manifestations of climate change; and by the synergistic impact of these effects combined with anthropogenic stresses.
Reef-building coral have an upper temperature tolerance only a few degrees above normal tropical sea temperatures. In higher temperatures they bleach (Hoegh-Guldberg and Salvat 1995; Lough 1999; Hoegh-Guldberg 1999a, 1999b; Wilkinson et al. 1999), and with prolonged warming, they may die. An anticipated rise in background sea temperature will expose corals to an increasingly hostile environment with consequent repeated bleaching (Brown 1997; Davies et al. 1997; Goreau et al.1998). Within the next 30 to 50 years, most of the world’s coral reefs are expected to experience severe bleaching conditions every year, as sea surface temperatures exceed their current maximums. (Hoegh-Guldberg1999a).
Probable mechanisms of bleaching are (a) lowered resistance of the coral to infection and/or increased bacterial virulence with increasing temperature (Kushmaro et al. 1997), a phenomenon currently observed only in non-tropical, Mediterranean corals15, and (b) temperature-induced damage to photosystem II (PSII, a major component in the photosynthetic apparatus) that occurs when sea temperature exceeds 30° C (Jones et al. 1998; Warner et al. 1996, 1999; Winter et al. 1998). Bleaching is caused also by other climate- and global-change effects, such as excessive light (Fitt and Warner 1995; Jones et al. 1998) and increased ultraviolet radiation (Lough 1999; Hoegh-Guldberg 1999a 1999b).
Increased atmospheric CO2, also leads to coral degradation. It decreases water pH and carbonate ion concentration, lowering the seawater carbonate saturation rates, resulting in lower coral calcification rates (Gattuso et al. 1999; Kleypas et al. 1999). Reduced calcification can decrease the density of coral carbonate skeletons (Gattuso et al. 1999). The reduced density, combined with more frequent severe storms caused by global climate change, can accelerate erosion of reefs (Done 1999). Coral degradation may hamper the expansion of reefs into higher latitudes to compensate for the predicted rise in sea temperatures in the tropics (Kleypas et al. 1999). In addition, reduced calcification and frequent bleaching may impair the ability of reefs to keep up with the rising sea level. Not only will this prevent the reefs from benefiting from the sea level rise (by permitting increased growth over the previously limited reef flats), but it may also prove deleterious if the high water column above the reefs reduces penetration of light essential for the corals' photosynthetic endosymbionts (Wilkinson 1996). Under the above conditions the probability of reef species extinction and ecosystem collapse will increase (Chadwick-Furman 1996; Anonymous 1998).
Coral bleaching in the Red Sea has been observed in the last years, but it is currently unknown whether increased temperature is responsible6. Temperature in the Gulf of Elat usually does not exceed 28oC—below what is considered the maximum for corals. Nevertheless, increased bleaching may result from increases in normal background maximal temperatures15 and exacerbate the already rapid degradation of the coral reef due to water-pollution and nutrient enrichment by fish-cultivation in the Red Sea15,B. Degradation of the coral reef in the Gulf of Elat by the synergistic effect of pollution and climate change will have a strong negative impact on tourism, as Eilat’s international appeal is partly due to this spectacular coral reef.
22.214.171.124.3 Coastal ecosystems
Extensive development along Israel’s shoreline, together with accelerated sea-level rise, may inundate coastal ecosystems and endanger their biodiversity. Further inundation may reduce animal and plant populations below their Minimum Viable Population size (Meffe and Carrol 1997). Most vulnerable are the flat, mostly sandy Mediterranean coastlines, where a 30-cm rise in sea level can flood as much as 60 m of land (Jelgersma and Sestini 1992), and their plant and animal communities will not be able to migrate or expand eastward due to lack of suitable habitats, already taken by settlements and other development projects. With a rise in sea level, seawater would also penetrate ephemeral river basins (wadis). Thirteen rivers in Israel, most of which are ephemeral, drain into the Mediterranean Sea (Jelgersma and Sestini 1992). Natural ecosystems that become small and isolated as a result of dense human development will shrink even more as seawater penetrates them, endangering both the aquatic ecosystem within rivers, and terrestrial ecosystems along the coastline.
Some 60% of Israel is desert, and the rest is highly developed, not leaving much space for woodland, natural or planted, hence making woodlands unique entities in Israel, small in spatial extent but of much significance with respect to their services to the whole country. Israeli woodlands are threatened by pests, droughts and fires, all expected to increase in frequency and severity due to climate change.
Pests. The effect of climate on woodlands in Israel is not regularly monitored A. In other countries of the Mediterranean, however, it has been shown that forest decline can result from increased sensitivity to invasive tropical pathogens under drought conditions. For example, the oak decline in southern Europe was attributed primarily to increased attacks of the fungus Phytophthora cinnamoni within the oak’s current distribution (Brasier et al. 1996). This pathogen is also highly destructive to avocado crops in Israel (Arnon 1994). Thus, warming may enhance the activity of such invasive pathogens, resulting in increased damage to natural and man-made forests, as well as to crops (see also chapter “Sensitivity to Pests and Diseases”).
Droughts. The apparent increase in extreme events has already caused severe damage to forests planted by the Jewish National Fund (JNF, the afforestation agency of Israel). The severe droughts in 1998/9 and 1999/2000 caused a high mortality of trees throughout the country with partial damage to 20% of trees in the northern part of Israel. Tree deaths occurred mainly in the Lower Galilee and the Gilboa, areas that received the lowset rainfall amount (JNF 1999b). A detailed survey of the northern Negev revealed mortality of 11.4 to 19.8% (JNF 1999a). Sensitive trees species suffered 8% to 45% mortality rates. In the winter of 1999, as the severe drought continued, mortality of some species approached 100% in the northern Negev the Beer Sheva area8. The expected increase in extreme weather conditions and the projected increase in temperature are expected to increase tree mortality in afforestation plots throughout Israel. Drought conditions may also affect the Arava Rift Valley savanna-type Acacia woodlands, some of which might have been already affected by depletion of local aquifers due to over pumping (Pe’er 1998).
Fires. Fires in the Mediterranean basin are always caused by human activity (Safriel 1997). Most fires in Israel occur in the autumn, when the amount of dry matter is the greatest. The highly flammable vegetation (e.g. in the Carmel and Meron Mountains) becomes thicker and denser with the reduction of mammalian herbivores (Safriel 1997). Decreased water availability, elevated evapotranspiration and delayed winter rains may enhance and prolong drought conditions, increasing the probability of fires (Safriel 1993). Frequent incidences of extreme heat may also contribute to fires8.
Because man-made fires have been common in the Middle East for thousands of years, many Mediterranean plants are well adapted to fires, and sometimes can even take advantage of fire effects (Safriel 1997 and references therein). It is possible, however, that with increased fire frequency these adaptations will not be adequate for restoring the woodlands, and rehabilitation efforts following fires will not succeed due to difficulties in restoring successional dynamics when some of key species fail to recruit. Finally, fires also create a competition-free habitat for invasive trees and herbs that establish more easily and may replace the native species.
3.1.4 The impact of CO2 enrichment
The projected increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration, also referred to as “CO2 fertilization,” is a major component in plant response to climatic change, and affects both natural and agricultural ecosystems. The effect is generally positive but plants diverge in their response to CO2 enrichment.
126.96.36.199 Mechanisms of Plant response to CO2 enrichment
The two main positive impacts of increased atmospheric CO2 are: 1) more efficient photosynthesis, leading to improved growth rate; and 2) less water loss during CO2 absorption. CO2 is absorbed through pores (stomata). When the stomata are open in full daylight the plant loses water through transpiration. With a higher concentration of atmospheric CO2, the stomata can absorb a given amount of CO2 in less time, thereby reducing transpiration and water demand. Consequently, in the equation photosynthesis / transpiration, a small increase in atmospheric CO2 both increases the nominator and decreases denominator, resulting in much greater water use efficiency (WUE). In Israel, increased WUE may constitute an adaptation to drought conditions induced by climate change, enabling Mediterranean plants to withstand desertification and even invade the desert. CO2 enrichment also improves plant resistance to soil salinity14—a major limiting factor in Israel’s drylands, providing another mechanism for plant intrusion into the desert and thus contrasting predictions of future decline in soil productivity and vegetation loss in Israeli drylands.
The positive effects of CO2 enrichment may somewhat counter-balance the adverse effects of water deficit due to decreased precipitation and increased evapotranspiration, and can counteract desertification processes. However, these positive effects may be limited: plant response to the increase in atmospheric CO2 is not linear: At about 550 ppmv the physiological response to CO2 becomes saturated (Cao and Woodward 1998; Cramer et al., 2000). Other studies have shown that interactions between CO2 enrichment and other environmental variables may be either positive (under drought conditions, Tubiello et al. 1999) or negative (under heat conditions, Bhattacharya and Geyer 1993). Thus, the net effect of CO2 enrichment under climate change is currently unknown.
188.8.131.52 Impacts of CO2 enrichment in Israel
Plants with the C3 photosynthetic pathway (C3 plants), respond efficiently to elevated CO2 by increasing photosynthesis. C4 plants, which utilize CO2 highly efficiently under low CO2 concentrations, cannot increase photosynthesis efficiency in response to CO2 enrichment. Hence, with CO2 enrichment, the competitive ability of C3 plants is expected to increase relative to C4 plants. In Israel, where C3 plants are the majority14, communities are likely to become more resistant to invasion of C4 species (see Alward et al. 1999).
CO2 fertilization may confer a further advantage on plants capable of fixing atmospheric nitrogen, such as legume species (of the order Leguminales: Mimosaceae, Caesalpiniaceae and Papilionaceae). Reducing the effect of CO2 as a limiting factor on photosynthesis leads to more rapid growth and rapid depletion of soil nutrients. The consequent decrease in soil fertility lowers the positive effect of CO2 enrichment (Bhattacharya and Geyer 1993). Under these conditions, the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen is a major advantage. A positive feedback between nitrogen fixing and photosynthesis, in which increased nitrogen concentration improves photosynthesis efficiency, has also been demonstrated14. Hence, the advantages of nitrogen-fixing plants over other species enables legumes in Israel to increase their relative abundance in semi-arid and arid ecosystems or to invade more arid ones14.
Plants with storage organs (e.g. geophytes) may also benefit from CO2 enrichment. Their ability to store photosynthetic assimilates in specialized organs allows them to increase photosynthesis without being limited by growth rate. However, this advantage is limited to nutrient-rich soils, as nutrient depletion might limit their growth rate. The number of species with storage organs is relatively high in Israel and many of them are expected to become more abundant in nutrient-rich soils due to CO2 enrichment.
CO2 enrichment may also affect habitat structure where seed establishment is limited by water availability. CO2 enrichment doubled the fraction of Prosopis seedlings (Mimosaceae) that survived soil water depletion (Polley et al. 1999), suggesting that CO2 enrichment might enhance the establishment of trees in areas under water stress. If other trees similarly benefit from CO2 enrichment, CO2 fertilization may lead to modifications in habitat structures, with successful establishment of more trees.
CO2 enrichment may significantly affect agriculture. Increased WUE would increase yield (Bhattacharya and Geyer 1993), especially where crops are fertilized, since growth would not be limited by nutrient depletion. Because all of Israel has summer drought, CO2 enrichment is anticipated to benefit agriculture throughout the country14.
Altogether, the effect CO2 combined with all other interacting effect is highly uncertain (Wolfe and Erickson 1993), as is the impact on different plant species and communities. The net effect of CO2 enrichment could only be elucidated through outdoor experiments14. The impact of CO2 enrichment also must be considered with respect to one of its main sources - urban and industrial burning of fossil fuels - and its concomitant production of air pollution. The detrimental effect of air pollution on plants may be much stronger than any positive effect of CO2 enrichment14.
3.2 Socio-Economic impacts
Climate change—through warming, decreased water availability and greater environmental variability, as well as CO2 enrichment—has broad implications for agriculture. Currently, confidence in our ability to anticipate aggregate crop responses to climate change is low, both because of the uncertainty of future climate variability and extremes, and of the uncertainty of crop responses.
184.108.40.206 Effect on yield
Increased weather fluctuations in Israel, especially extreme cold and heat, may endanger both cold- and heat-sensitive crops, such as wheat, soybeans, tomatoes, citrus, and others (Jeftic 1993). Greater rain intensities and resulting flooding may destroy crops in the coastal plains. The drought effect is expected to intensify with the anticipated decreain precipitation and increased heat and evapotranspiration. A shortened winter will further exacerbate the drought effect. Crops will need more irrigation to account for drought and salinization but the overall water supply in Israel will be greater than the demand; if agriculture will have a low priority or all irrigation water will be treated wastewater, soil salinization risks will increase. CO2 enrichment may reduce the effects of drought and salinization, particularly in the semi-arid region where increased resistance to drought and salinity may crucial. CO2 enrichment will mainly benefit fertilized agriculture. Finally, Israeli agriculture has a competitive advantage by selling early crops on foreign markets. This advantage may be lost when the growing season will be delayed due to the projected delayed winter rains.
220.127.116.11 Sensitivity to pests and diseases
Climate change is expected to encourage pests and pathogens mainly in temperate regions, including Israel (Parry 1990; IPCC 1996). The anticipated warming and increased frequency of extreme climatic conditions—mainly excessive heat—will create environmental conditions favorable to the establishment and expansion of pests and pathogens. Most pests and pathogens will continue to be introduced by humans and imported crops; only pests of tropical origin currently unable to become established, will benefit from climate change. If increased mean temperature exceeds the anticipated increase in seasonal variability, warmer winter temperatures will allow more pest outbreaks, mainly in northern Israel where cold-sensitivity limits pest reproduction (Virtanen et al. 1996). Drought may also increase crop sensitivity to pests and pathogens, especially in rain fed fields and in drought- and heat-sensitive crops, due to the direct effect of water stress and a probable indirect effect of the increased sensitivity to pests. Yield may also decrease because of an anticipated increase in insect herbivory motivated by high carbon/nitrogen ratio in tissues of plants benefiting from CO2 enrichment (Bazzaz and Fajer 1992).
Climate change induced loss of biodiversity may encompass species that control pests, and progenitors or relatives of cultivated plants that can be used for breeding with their cultivated relatives in order to increase their resistance to pests (Costanza et al. 1997). It is currently impossible to forecast how climate change impact on ecosystems will affect biological control of pests in IsraelA. An analysis of origin and distribution of the rich diversity of pests in Israel20 may assist in forecasting the effect of climate change on agricultural pests.
Fisheries, mainly in the Sea of Galilee, may decline if the projected high water temperatures will reduce water oxygen concentration, change its chemical composition, and increase salinity due to increased evaporation. Temperature rise will also increase water stratification, causing further oxygen depletion (Jeftic 1993). Eutrophication due to increased surface runoff will promote more frequent algal blooms, which will further reduce oxygen availability and increase fish mortality.
The intensified colonization of the Mediterranean Sea by Red Sea species may affect Mediterranean fisheries. The economic impact of climate change on the marine and aquatic systems of Israel is not yet known A.
18.104.22.168 Mediterranean Sea coasts
Sea level rise may erode coastal structures due to an increase in wave force (as waves tend to break closer to the shoreline), overtopping, scouring and changes in current directionality attributed to the higher water levels, change in temperature distribution and increased storminess4. Increased wave impact will cause greater coastal erosion, damaging harbors and other coastal structures (Jeftic 1993) and leading to collapse of the coastal beach cliff in the central sector of Israel’s shoreline (Brachya and Rozen 1993). As the movement of sands is greatly determined by storms, increase in storm frequency and changes in wind direction may exacerbate coastline erosion and retreat. There is much evidence of man-induced coastal erosion in Israel3 (Jelgersma and Sestini 1992): 20 million m3 of sands have been removed from Israel’s coasts in the 20th century, mainly by mining. The Aswan dam in the Nile in Egypt and the construction of breakwaters, harbors and coastal structures along the southern coasts of Israel has further diminished the transport of sand from the Nile delta (Gulik and Rosen 2000).
Sea level rise will accelerate coastal erosion and retreat. Israel’s heavily populated coastal plain is most vulnerable to coastal erosion (Garsel et al. 2000; Gulik and Rosen 2000). Sea level rise will affect valuable lands and structures close to the eolianite sandstone (“kurkar”) coastal cliffs. The area between Shfaim (North of Tel-Aviv) in the South and Atlit (south of Haifa) in the North (Gulik and Rosen 2000) is particularly vulnerable. Vermetid reefs, found in many Mediterranean rocky beaches, are expected to protect from coastal erosion by decreasing the direct impacts of waves on the shoreline. These intertidal reefs are eolianite platforms protected from erosion by a crust of vermetid snails and calcareous algae (Safriel 1975; Tzur and Safriel 1978). Since only the biological crust will respond to climate change the impact of warming and sea level rise on the vermetid platforms is unknown.
22.214.171.124 Red Sea Coast
Although sea level rise will not extensively inundate the Red Sea coast of Israel because of the steep drop of the coastal sea bed, Elat’s narrow recreational beaches and the transportation lines along the beaches may be affected by the increase in water level, wave activity and increase in storminess. The overall impact of sea level rise on the ports of Elat and the marina has not been assessed4. The Red Sea Coral reefs are subtidal, and therefore reduce wave activity less efficiently than the Mediterranean vermetid reefs. Nevertheless, coral reefs usually have a relatively high growth-rate. It is not known whether sea level will rise slowly enough to allow the corals to grow upward and to what extent the coral reef will not be instrumental in coast protection.
126.96.36.199 Dead Sea coast
Reduced water input into the Dead Sea due to anthropogenic causes (management of the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River) have led to a continuous lowering of sea level in the Dead Sea and withdrawal of the water line. Increased evaporation and decreased precipitation may further accelerate this process. Besides its effect on ecosystems, this retreat decreases ground stability. A consequent collapse and formation of hollows along the coastline in this area of heavy tourism may endanger humans and damage buildingsA. It should be noted, however, that increased evapotranspiration may increase the efficiency of salt extraction, aiding the mineral industries.
188.8.131.52 Loss of archeological sites
Israel, like most Mediterranean countries, is rich in archeological sites located on the Mediterranean shore and at shallow underwater depths (Nir 1993). It is expected that underwater sites now covered with sand will be lost due to coastal erosion and the loss of sands from the sea floor, which will expose the sites to wave attack and oxidation with consequent rapid degradationA. This phenomenon has already occurred in recent decades at the underwater sites of Caesarea and Atlit. Coastal archeological sites may face destruction from stronger wave activity due to elevated sea levels.
184.108.40.206 Decrease in hydraulic slope
Sea level rise will decrease the hydraulic slope (water gradient) between water outlets and the seawater table. This will reduce the efficiency of power stations since water is used for cooling will be less efficiently disposed, leading to less efficient cooling (Brachya and Rozen 1993; Garsel et al. 2000). It has been claimed, however, that the impact of a reduced water gradient of several tens of cm on power station discharge efficiency is negligible17,A. Reduced water gradient will also reduce the efficiency of urban and industrial drainage systems duto lower discharge capacities (Jelgersma and Sestini 1992). Together with the anticipated increase in storminess, more frequent and more severe floods are expected during peak water-flows. Lowlands are highly sensitive to reduced water discharge. Most vulnerable to flooding are the lowland urban areas, such as the rapidly growing “Dan” metropolitan region (Tel-Aviv, Jaffa, Bat-Yam, Ramat-Gan etc.), where urban development greatly increases surface runoff.
More frequent extreme climatic events and greater seasonal temperature variability will increase the energy demands for heating buildings in winter and cooling them in summer. A more rapid increase in energy requirements, however, estimated at a yearly increase of 4%, is attributed to the growing population and higher living standards. Thus, the effect of climate change on energy requirement may be marginal17, A.
3.2.4 Human Health
Evidence for climate-change related impact on human health and disease, such as an increase in heat-related mortality and in vector-borne diseases , is particularly difficult to detect and attribute (Loevinsohn 1994; Mouchet et al. 1998) due to the many variables affecting human health and the “background” socioeconomic effect.
220.127.116.11 Parasitic diseases
The risk of parasitic disease may increase with climate change because increased annual and seasonal variability, elevated mean temperature, and extreme weather events may allow the spread of existing vectors and establishment of new invasive ones. Cold-sensitive vectors of human diseases, such as Leishmaniasis, tick-borne diseases etc., which proliferate in summer, are expected to increase in Israel with the longer and hotter summers resulting from the projected delay of winter rains.
Reduced efficiency of municipal and industrial drainage system, due to decreased hydraulic slope and greater rain intensities, will result in more standing water and swamps, and allow a longer time for population increase of viruses, bacteria and protozoa. This will increase the probability of water-related epidemics (Garsel et al. 2000) such as malaria, cholera, dysentery, West Nile virus fever, giardiasis, bilharzia etc, mainly in coastal cities.
Malaria is likely to increase as a result of climate change. More frequent extreme weather conditions (particularly hot and wet years) might eliminate a climatic barrier to malaria and trigger its recurrence in Israel. The current low incidence of the malaria parasite is attributed mainly to low temperatures (Jetten et al. 1996). Several Anopheles species, some of them malaria vectors, already occur in Israel and may easily expand their distribution under hotter and/or wetter conditions. Also, prevailing climatic conditions that affect the abundance and distribution of the different Anopheles species in Egypt and in Israel may promote their colonization and lead to reappearance of the disease (Pener et al. 1994). There is also a high possibility of long-distance migration of Anopheles mosquitoes from malaria-inflicted areas in Egypt (Pener et al. 1994). It should be noted that the main malaria vector in Israel has a Mediterranean distribution, and is thus capable of transmitting the disease easily throughout most of Israel once the parasite colonizes.
Cholera is expected to increase in Israel in the summer. The cholera vector, Vibriocholera, which inhabits coastal saltwater and brackish estuaries (Blaser 1998), increases its spread, persistence and virulence with warmer water temperatures (Epstein, 1993; Colwell, 1996; Blaser 1998), especially above 20oC (Blaser 1998). Longer and hotter summers will thus increase the incidence of cholera, mainly in coastal areas.
Leishmaniasis is another vector-borne disease that may spread into new areas of Israel with a warmer climate. Temperature is proposed as a major factor preventing the spread of leishmaniasis over southern Europe and into northern Europe, whereas a climatic-related increase in the disease was observed in Spain (Kuhn 1999). Currently, leishmaniasis occurs only in the hottest areas of Israel (the Negev and the ‘Arava valley), limited by climatic factors and by the distribution of its vector, Phlebotomus papatasi (‘sandfly’). It is possible that higher mean or summer temperature may enhance spread of the parasite within the range of the vector’s distribution, or lead to the expansion of the vector - and the disease - northward in Israel, as it did in Spain, since the two countries experienced similar climatic trends (P. Alpert, unpublished data).
18.104.22.168 Climate-related diseases
Elderly people, children, and people with chronic diseases and heart diseases are expected to suffer more climate-related illnesses because of more frequent extreme weather events and greater seasonal variability (Garsel et al. 2000; see also Kalkstein and Greene 1997). In southern Israel, the amount of dust in cities is as high as twice that of rural areas, probably due to air perturbation around buildings and to human activity (Tsoar and Erell 1995; Erell and Tsoar 1997). Sandstorms and dust storms, which are expected to increase with climate change, will exacerbate human respiratory disorders. Climate change may also impact health indirectly, through its combined effect with air pollution. Changes in weather patterns may affect pollutant formation and/or transport, and/or formation and altering human exposure to pollution, especially during severe episodes. Neither the direct nor indirect impacts of climate change on human health in Israel has been assessed A.
3.3 Economic costs
Direct and indirect costs of climate change need to be evaluated for all socioeconomic systems in Israel10,26. Shechter and Yehoshua (2000) have initiated a study to come up with a preliminary quantified assessment of the economic costs to society of the local impacts of predicted climate change. The “bottom-up” approach is similar to that used in other recent studies (e.g. Tol 1995). Data have been collected on the impact of climate change on agriculture (N. Yehoshua, unpublished data). Wider, inter-disciplinary research is needed to assess the impact of climate change on land-use and vegetation and the consequent economic costs5,10. In order to assess the need for adaptation to the impacts of climate change, the economic costs of such events must be determined and compared with the costs of adaptation itself.
The impact of warming—assuming a constant variability in climate—may be easier to adapt to than increased climatic uncertainty, because people and institutions need to prepare for extreme situations (Kutiel 2000), and spatial and temporal uncertainties make these events more difficult to predict9. In the following the issue of possible adaptations to projected impacts of climate change are discussed.
4.1 Environmental adaptations
Israel, is an affected country party of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD), and is therefore committed to combat desertification within its territory. As in many other drylands, desertification is expected to be exacerbated by climate change also in Israel, and especially in the Judean Desert highlands and in the northern Negev. Furthermore, desertification is also one of the drivers of global and regional climate change. Thus measures for combating desertification constitute adaptations to climate change. Options for combating desertification in Israel are:
4.1.2 Forest management
The JNF decided to concentrate on planting tree species that proved resistant to the severe droughts of 1998/9 and 1999/2000. Sensitive areas and sensitive species have been defined for future care (JNF 1999a, 1999b). The JNF and Israel Meteorological Service initiated a study of the relationship between local climatic conditions and drought damages in Israel’s forests in 1999 and 2000. This information will provide quantitative measurements of climatic impact on forestry, and allow appropriate planning8. Reduction of dry matter - by, for example, prescribed and controlled livestock grazing or by reintroduction of mammalian herbivores (Safriel 1997) - is an adaptation to the projected increase in fire risk.
4.2 Natural Ecosystems
4.2.1 Loss of biodiversity
Adaptations proposed by Halpin (1997) for the projected climate change induced losses of biodiversity worldwide, that are applicable to Israel, are prioritizing reserves with local climatic diversity; managing landscape connectivity to facilitate dispersal and migration; and maintaining the natural disturbance patterns that generate resilience. Specific adaptations for Israel are the management of ecotones and of corridors.
4.2.2 Conservation of ecotones
With climate change, populations of species in the Mediterranean regions of Israel may become extinct, whereas in the desert/non-desert climatic transition zone, at least certain genotypes—probably those resistant to climatic variability—may persist. The latter can migrate to, or be transplanted into the Mediterranean region to restore the species lost there (Safriel et al. 1994). Thus, the immediate conservation of this, as well as possibly other ecotones in Israel (such as on the Hermon and the Upper Galilee mountains, where butterfly species of several biomes meet Benyamini 1990), may be instrumental in maintaining high genetic diversity 8,11 and the option of future rehabilitation of other populations in Israel (Naveh 1993, Kark et al. 1999). More research is needed to determine sensitivity or resistance to climate change among ecotone peripheral populations, as these conservation recommendations are based on a small number of species and the mechanisms that maintain the high genetic diversity in ecotones are not fully understood.
4.2.3 Conservation of habitat connectivity
Habitat connectivity allows for individuals or propagules to migrate northward and upward as a response to climate change. With no connectivity, populations and species may be lost. One method of preserving habitat connectivity is through the conservation of corridors - strips of natural habitats within a ‘hostile’ environment that connect two or more larger patches of natural habitat (Beier and Noss 1998). Maintaining connectivity between ecotones and other ecosystems is recommended worldwide as an adaptation to climate change (Halpin 1997). North-south cross-Israel corridors, one at each side of the country’s major water divide (along the western slopes of the Judea and Samaria mountains, through the inner lowlands and south to the northern Negev; along the eastern side of the mountain ridge, starting from Gilboa Mountain in the north through the Judean Desert and south to the Negev highlands19,A). With anticipated climatic and anthropogenically induced changes, these corridors may play a major role in biodiversity conservation in Israel.
Corridors may not serve as adaptation for rescuing the coastal ecosystems should they become threatened by sea level rise. Redefinition of the Mediterranean coastline has been used in drafting new legislation, the “coast law” of Israel. The projected shoreline will serve as the basis for coastal development. The redefinition of the projected may generate re-planning that will provide for replacement of the coastal ecosystems expected to be lost due to sea level rise.
Israeli agriculture is already impacted by water scarcity and declining economic profitability. Adaptations to these are also adaptations to climate change impacts – modifications of agrotechnologies with respect to salinity risks; revision of policies concerning water allocation and quotas; greater investment in protected agriculture and in the profitability of allocation of land and water to agriculture in face of prospective warming. Short-term spatial and temporal diversification in cultivation and in crop varieties, required as adaptation for climate change impacts too, are already implemented in Israel for a long time20. Specific adaptations for climate change impacts include delaying seeding time, redistribution of lands for agricultural use, and practices for reducing evapotranspiration and consequent loss of soil moisture, such as no-till and straw mulching (Bonfil et al. 1999a, 1999b; Mufradi et al. 1999). with no need of unnecessary.
4.3.2 Human Health
Heat- and cold-related health problems mainly impact countries with insufficient health services. Given the level of medical care and standard of life in Israel, it is likely that climate-change related extreme events would have a low impact on human health; the projected increase in Israel’s standard of living is in itself an adaptation to climate change. Yet, experience from other countries (Kalkstein and Greene 1997) suggests that the socio-economic weak sectors of the society will always be at risk of climate-related mortality.
The more comfortable and healthier environments of improved urban design provide a possible adaptation to climate change. Improved drainage systems will reduce populations of non-vector biting mosquitoes and lessen the projected increase in mosquito-borne diseases and epidemics related to flooding. Planting or paving land surfaces in southern cities will reduce the availability of erodible particles and thereby the amount of dust in these desert cities (Tsoar and Erell 1995; Erell and Tsoar 1997). This will, in addition, provide an adaptation to the anticipated increase in storm frequency and consequent exacerbation of human respiratory disorders.
Energy demands in Israel are rapidly increasing irrespective of climate change, due to population increase and a higher standard of living. It has been stated that the rate of climate change is slow enough to require little or no energy adaptation17,21. However, not enough is currently known about the contribution of climate change to energy requirements through increased seasonal variability and more frequent temperature extremes. It is estimated that around 40% of the energy in Israel is used for making buildings habitable, mainly through heating and cooling. The Ministry of National Infrastructures has commissioned a quantitative study on the impact of future climate on the country’s energy requirements21.
Climate-sensitive housing would provide a more comfortable environment and decrease the energy needs for maintenance, irrespective of climate change. Designing buildings in ways that buffer internal temperature changes will serve as an adaptation for overall warming and increased frequency of temperature extremes. Some measures developed by the Blaustein Institute for Desert Research, Israel, for drylands with low air humidity are:
Guidelines for urban planning in a hot-humid climate typical of coastal plains are necessary for adapting the environment to climate change. Dr. Edna Shaviv and coworkers provided such guidelines for the Israeli Ministry of EnergyA. However, these guidelines are not applied yet to local and regional planning and development21,A.
22.214.171.124 Water management
The need to collect and save water for drought years will increase with greater temporal uncertainty. Yet, only a large-scale solution may provide sufficient adaptation, through better use of recycled water and use of new water resources. Current reservoirs cannot be adapted to the increase in annual variability, as demonstrated by the Sea of Galilee, the main surface reservoir. Its lower water levels correlate highly with annual rainfall. The upper limit cannot be changed as it is determined by management decisions concerning the settlements around it (Steinberger and Gazit-Yaari 1996). Greater overflow collection by dams is an inefficient and expensive solution in the face of increased spatial uncertainty9 (Kutiel 2000) - it is impossible to predict where peak water runoffs will occur for planning new reservoirs or adapting current ones. Dam construction will also damage natural ecosystems and natural resources for tourism, with its consequent costs. Thus, greater loss of water to surface runoff is inevitable.
Better management of aquifer recharge through water-sensitive urban planning may reduce surface runoff. Urban development greatly increases overland flow that otherwise would have reached the aquifer. This both increases the chances of flash flooding and decreases the quantity and quality of freshwater supplies. Water-sensitive urban planning, using infiltration basins within the built environment, reduces surface runoff and enables aquifer recharge employing relatively inexpensive measures. For example, roof-collected water may easily penetrate the soil, serving both to recharge the aquifer and to reduce the load of municipal drainage systems (Meiron-Pistiner et al. 1996). Since natural vegetation traps soil moisture and reduces surface runoff, conservation of natural and man-made forests may also serve as an adaptation to the projected increase in flash flooding due to climate-change.
Israel has used cloud seeding for several decades to enhance rain. This practice may be expanded as an adaptation to the projected reduction in precipitation due to climate change. Employing satellites for determining the potential efficiency of cloud rain generation potential (Rosenfeld and Lensky 1998), rain enhancement is expected to improve greatly. To assess the applicability of cloud seeding in Israel, further study is needed on the effect of cloud seeding on polluted clouds—particularly cyclonic systems, which are the main sources of rains in Israel. Preliminary assessments show that seeding polluted clouds is highly effective and may reduce or even reverse the negative effect of pollution on rain (D. Rosenfeld, unpublished data).
126.96.36.199 Flood damage
The effect of floods in Israel has not been evaluated with respect to climate changeA. Analysis of drainage system efficiency may permit a spatial assessment of sensitivity and adaptation needs. Adaptation to more frequent flooding is improving drainage systems and flood-sensitive urban planning.
188.8.131.52 Sea level rise
To obtain direct sea-level measurements for devising reliable scenarios of sea-level rise in Israel, sea level is monitored aerially and by GPS (Global Positioning System) throughout the Mediterranean basin under the Global Sea Level Observing System (MedGLOSS) with a monitoring station at Hadera, Israel (Rosen 1999). Monitoring across the coast every two years or after storm events, along with more frequent monitoring of winds, waves and currents in order to estimate the sensitivity of different areas to sea-level rise may prepare for appropriate adaptations (Gulik and Rosen 2000).
Damages from sea level rise are estimated at about $1,600 million (U.S. dollars) if no action is taken. These costs could be reduced to approximately $400 million with adaptations as follows (Brachya and Rozen 1993):
In addition to these measures to reduce coastal erosion, Gulik and Rosen (2000) proposed to prevent mining sediments (sands) from the shallow (<30m deep) water of the Mediterranean Sea and to explore the option of using the deeper sand resources (>30m) buried under sediments. Sand that is trapped south of harbors, breakwaters and other coastal structures can also be mined or used for artificial feeding.
Brachya and Rozen’s cost estimates do not include the possible impacts of and adaptations to loss of income (tourism, agriculture, industry), loss of lands and drainage-system failure (Jelgersma and Sestini 1992; Garsel et al. 2000) due to reduced water gradient in coastal cities (Garsel et al. 2000), nor do they include the cost of adaptation itself.
Seawater intrusion into coastal aquifers, with concomitant water salinization is another effect of sea level rise. However, such intrusion is already evident in Israel due to overuse of the coastal aquifer. Sea level rise cannot be prevented (Brachya and Rozen 1993), but its effects can be moderated to some extent by reducing pumping from the coastal aquifer wells to sustainable amounts, so as to create hydraulic pressure. In order to define “sustainable magnitudes,” a quantitative evaluation of the potential loss of aquifer water due to seawater intrusion, both human-induced and from sea-level rise, are needed. The Hydrological Service of IsraelA has initiated such study.
5. LACK OF KNOWLEDGE
5.1 Climatic models and scenarios
The only quantitative climate scenario for Israel (Dayan and Koch 1999) is based on the IS92 models developed for the IPCC in 1992. These models did not yet include the effects of aerosols. Although the recently completed SRES (Nakicenovic et al., 2000) models may provide more reliable scenarios for Israel, the effect of air pollution aerosols on rain must also be incorporated in the model. This effect may be crucial to forecasting climate change in the highly sensitive eastern Mediterranean region, where rain is a determinant of vegetation, agriculture and human settlement (Issar, 1995) and hence precipitation scenarios are critical 2. Cyclone-generating processes should also be analyzed in simulations of winters, as for example the one developed by Krichak et al. (2000) 5,22. Finally, in the SRES scenarios (Nakicenovic et al. 2000) the time when 2° C warming is forecasted ranges from 2044 to 2100. Since Israel’s sensitivity to global change is uncertain, time horizons for climate change and its concomitant impacts have low confidence, and further improvement in SRESs is required before more reliable scenarios for Israel are attempted.
Assessing water supplies under climate change impacts require better understanding of the impact of climate change on reservoirs and aquifers. Assessing water demand uclimate change impact requires better understanding of climate change impacts on soil, vegetation, and natural and agricultural ecosystems. Hydrological as well as socio-economic studies attempting to predict the gap between supply and demand should not only incorporate social, demographic and political changes, but also the impacts of climate change.
5.3 Effect on ecosystems
5.3.1 Ecosystem response to climate change
Much of the evidence of ecosystem changes to date has come from high latitude (>40oN and S) and high altitude (>3000 m) environments. The sensitivity of local ecosystems in a mid-latitude of 30oN needs to be evaluated—based on our knowledge of animal and plant distribution in Israel—in order to identify sensitive landscapes and ecosystems for conservation. Some climate-related studies have provided the basis for such research:
5.3.2 Forest decline
No data on the impact of the recent extreme droughts on natural woodlands have been collected. Studies on the impact of climate change on major species of the natural woodlands of Israel are required in order to assess their vulnerability.
5.3.3 Coral reefs
Information is needed worldwide about the integrated effects of climate change, CO2 enrichment and human impact on coral reefs. Some experiments and measurements are currently being made in the coral reef of Elat to assess its vulnerability to climate change16. Only better knowledge of the mechanisms leading to bleaching can assist in proposing adaptations.
5.3.4 Ecosystem services
The specific services provided by each of the different Israeli ecosystems have not yet been evaluated. Similarly, the role of individual species in the provision of services is not known. These two sets of knowledge are required for the evaluation of the impact of climate change on the provision of ecosystem services.
5.4 Sea level rise
A reliable assessment of sea-level change is necessary for management decisions. Measurements on the Israeli coast to assess the local rate of sea-level rise are underway. But simulation models of worldwide use may provide the required information on changes in sedimentation and erosion processes without resorting to local forecasts or direct measurements (Gulik and Rosen 2000). These models can be used to identify sensitive beaches in Israel.
5.5 Urban development
The sensitivity of different cities to climate change is currently unknown, but the most vulnerable area is probably the densely populated coastal plain, which is affected by climate change, sea-level rise, increased frequency of floods, and changes in the water balance (Garsel et al. 2000). Future plans for urban development must consider the local climatic and hydrologic effect of large cities, namely the Dan metropolitan, Jerusalem and Haifa, especially under climate change. The implications of future retreat of the Dead Sea coast on soil stability must be assessed in order to adapt existing structures and provide guidelines for future development.
5.6 CO2 Enrichment
The overall impact of CO2 enrichment on wild plants, community structures and crops is currently unknown. It can only be studied through outdoor experimentation, where all interweaved factors are acting simultaneously14. Special attention must be given to the effect of CO2 enrichment plants’ water balance and plant resistance to salinity, as these are major adaptations of plants to drought and heat.
5.7 Agriculture and fisheries
The net effect of climate change on agricultural yields is currently unknown (Garsel et al. 2000). Yahav et al. (2000a, 2000b) and Yahav and Bar (2000) studied the response of laying hens to different climatic factors, and their ability to acclimatize. The study generated quantitative guidelines preventing exposure of hens to specific maximum temperature and relative humidity. Such studies of other agricultural crops are required for generating adaptation options for agriculture.
The impact of increased surface temperature on oxygen pressure, water quality and fish food organisms in Israel’s seas, lakes and fishpond can be elucidated by observational and experimental work. The effect of “Lessepsian migrant” fish on Mediterranean fisheries has to be assessed in order to evaluate further effects due to climate change induced intensified migration.
5.8 Human health
Currently in Israel, heat- or cold-related mortality is not monitored with respect to climate or climate changeA. A statistical analysis of climate-related diseases correlated with climatic history may permit a preliminary forecast of changes in the frequency of such epidemics, particularly in summer, where a temperature increase has already been observed. Analysis of climate-related diseases among different populations and within different climatic regions of Israel may reveal diverse sensitivities to climate change. Models based on climate-change scenarios can be constructed to assess the probability of future climate-related diseases and vector-borne epidemics.
Israel has not developed legislation addressing climate change impacts. The current legislative process regarding the country’s coastline (the “coast law”) is related to the anticipated rise of sea level, but was not motivated by it. The definition of “coastline” and the limitations placed on onshore and offshore development in sensitive areas, take into consideration the projected future coastline. For instance, in the face of increased coastal erosion, construction of new coastal structures would be allowed only with a commitment to artificial movement of sand.
7.1 Cited Literature
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Alpert, P., T. Ben-Gai, Y. Benjamini, A. Baharad, M. Colacino, E. Pierviali, C. Ramis, V. Homar, S. Michalides and A. Manes (2000) Evidence for trends to extremes in observed daily rainfall categories over the Mediterranean (in preparation. See http://www.bbsr.edu/rpi/flt/May2000/alpert/sld01.htm).
Andren, H. (1994). Effects of habitat fragmentation on birds and mammals in landscapes with different proportions of suitable habitat: a review. Oikos 71: 355-366.
Arnon, I. (Ed.) (1994). Plants and animals in the service of mankind. Vol. 12 of: Alon, A. (Ed.) Plants and Animals of the Land of Israel, an Illustrated Encyclopedia. (Tel Aviv: Ministry of Defense/The Publishing House and Society for Protection of Nature, Israel).
Bazzaz, F. A. and E. D. Fajer (1992). Plant life in a CO2-rich world. Scientific American 266:68-74.
Beier, P. and R. F. Noss (1998). Do habitat corridors provide connectivity? Conservation Biology 12: 1241-1252.
Ben Gai, T., A. Bitan, A. Manes and P. Alpert (1993). Long-term changes in October rainfall patterns in southern Israel. Theoretical and Applied Climatology 46: 209-217.
Ben-Gai, T., A. Bitan, A. Manes, P. Alpand S. Rubin (1999). Temporal and spatial trends of temperature patterns in Israel. Theoretical and Applied Climatology 64: 163-177.
Ben-Gai, T., A. Bitan, A. Manes, P. Alpert and S. Rubin (1998a). Spatial and temporal changes in rainfall frequency distribution patterns in Israel. Theoretical and Applied Climatology 61: 177-190.
Ben-Gai, T., A. Bitan, A. Manes, S. Rubin and P. Alpert (1998b). Climatic changes in Israel in the second half of the 20th century. In: Alpert, P., A. Manes and I. Seter (Eds.) CLIVAR report - Israel. Paris, 2-4 Dec. 1998.
Benyamini, D. (1990). A Field Guide to the Butterflies of Israel, Including of Mt. Hermon and Sinai (1st Ed.). Keter Publishing House, Jerusalem (In Hebrew).
Berthold, P. (1998). Bird migration: genetic programs with high adaptability. Zoology 101: 235-245.
Bhattacharya, N. C. and R. A. Geyer (1993). Prospects of agriculture in a carbon dioxide-enriched environment. A global Warming Forum: Scientific, Economic and Legal Overview. Florida, USA: CRC Press, Inc.
Blaser, M. J. (1998). Infections due to Canpylobacter and related species. pp 960-962 in: Fauci, A. S., E. I. Braunwald, J. Isselbacher, K. J., Wilson, T. R. Harrison, J. B. Martin, D. L. Kasper, S. L. Hauser and D. L. Longo (Eds.). Harrison's Principles of internal medicine, Vol. 1. (14th ed.). (New York : McGraw-Hill).
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7.2 Other resources
The following items relate to the superscript numerals in the text. All of them but A and B refer to persons that were interviewed during the preparation of this document:
8. List of acronyms
BIDR - Blaustein Institute for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel.
CCD - Convention to Combat Desertification
CO2 – Carbon Dioxide
COP - Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC
GCM - General Circulation Model
GHG - Greenhouse Gases
GPS - Global Positioning System
IPCC - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
JNF - Jewish National Fund
MedGLOSS - Mediterranean under Global Sea Level Observing System, which provides data for deriving the ‘Global Level of the Sea Surface’
SAR - Second Assessment Report of IPCC
SRES - Special Report on Emissions Scenarios of the IPCC
SST - Sea Surface Temperature
UNFCCC - United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
WUE - Water Use Efficiency
Pinhas Alpert, Haim Kutiel, and Daniel Rosenfeld provided their time, material and advise. David Sharon, Eva Steinberger, Dov Rozen, Taniv Rofe, Hedva Pener, Dubi Benyamini, Zvi Avni, Aharon Sahar, Mordechay Shechter, Simon Krichak, Shlomit Paz, Nahum Yehoshua, and Arie Issar provided their time and materials. Joseph Gale, Jan Koch, Nechama Ben-Eliyahu, Yoram Yom-Tov, David Saltz, Amatzia Ganin, Oren Farber, David Sugarman, Uri Dayan, Avi Perevolotsky, Amnon Einav, Jonathan Erez, Naomi Carmon, Rami Garti, Pinhas Fine, Yehudit Elkana, Uri Mingelgreen, Eli Richter, Dan Levanon, Jacob Garty, and Erez Weinroth provided their time. Nechama Ben-Eliahu and Marian Segal assisted in editing. We thank all the above for their cooperation, without which this document could not have been produced.