M.Sc Thesis

M.Sc StudentStoller-Cavari Liron
SubjectMapping Environmental Diversity as a Surrogate for
Biodiversity at the Local Scale: Mount Carmel
as a Case Study
DepartmentDepartment of Agricultural Engineering
Supervisor PROF. Yohay Carmel


Efforts to preserve biological diversity are increasingly focused upon ecosystems rather than species, primarily because direct surveys of species distribution and abundance are expensive and time consuming. Moreover, our knowledge of species distributions based on such surveys is patchy and incomplete, both in terms of geographical coverage and in terms of taxonomic coverage. The objective of the present study is to develop a reliable and simple tool to represent regional and local biodiversity. My approach assumes that environmental factors such as climate and topography determine species distributions. Therefore, planning and monitoring of reserves effectively might focus directly on obtaining a good representation of the environmental pattern as a surrogate for Biodiversity. Classification methods were introduced in previous studies as a useful tool for producing a set of groups that are complementary; each group representing a different and unique portion of the entire environmental domain. Here I provide the first direct comparison between biological and environmental surrogates. I chose a local scale (300 km2), which is often the relevant scale for land planning and management.  A specific environmental surrogate constructed using numerical classification of readily available GIS layers of environmental variables (topography, soil, and vegetation cover) outperformed biological surrogates, as well as other environmental surrogates, even those based on intensive field surveys. Moreover, these surrogates were robust to altering subjective decisions on the number of classes and input variables that drove the classification.