M.Sc Thesis

M.Sc StudentZafon Zohar
SubjectCan assessment of visual qualities assist in appraising
ecological quality of a given area? A case study
in Ramat HaNadiv Park
DepartmentDepartment of Architecture and Town Planning
Supervisors ASSOCIATE PROF. Daniel Eli Orenstein
PROF. Yohay Carmel
Full Thesis text - in Hebrew Full thesis text - Hebrew Version


This research examines whether indicators derived from visual analysis of natural landscapes can serve as a proxy measure for ecological value. The research investigates whether there is a connection between landscape visual indicators and ecological indicators.

In this research, ecological value is measured using the ecological indicators of species richness and rarity. The visual indicators are visual complexity indicators. We hypothesize that visual indicators can be used as surrogates for ecological indicators. The specific research question is: Is there a correlation between habitat visual indicators and ecological values, and if so, what is the nature of the correlation?

The research site is the Ramat HaNadiv Nature Park in the southern Carmel Mountains. 25 study plots were selected, representing a diversity of habitats within the park. After setting their boundaries, the plots were defined with GIS program according to visual assessment parameters and verified in field.

Three were selected:  

Number of landscape elements

Variety of land cover types


For the visual evaluation three photographs were taken under constant conditions for each plot. The scenes were appraised by 14 volunteers in a wide-screen theater, who rated them using a closed-ended questionnaire. The raters rated each of the scenes according to each of the three visual indicators. Average values were calculated for each plot.

The ecological indicators used for the research, were species rarity and species richness. These were calculated for two taxonomic groups, nesting birds and woody vegetation.

Nesting bird data were derived from the Ramat HaNadiv nesting birds monitoring program. The woody vegetation data was collected through field sampling specifically for this research. The relationship between the ecological data and the visual data was analyzed using a Spearman correlation.

The woody vegetation species rarity results were highly correlated with species richness results. The plots with the higher number of species were also rated high according to the rarity index. Likewise, those plots which rated with low species richness had low rarity values. The nesting bird species rarity correlated closely with the species richness data

A weak but significant correlation was found between the assessed number of landscape elements and the assessed variety of land cover types. The correlation between contrast and diversity of land cover types was weak but significant. Between contrast and number of landscape elements there was a moderate, significant correlation.

Contrary to the research hypothesis, no positive correlations were found between the visual and ecological indicators. Negative correlations were found between contrast and woody vegetation species rarity and between contrast and woody vegetation species richness.

We conclude that there is no connection between landscape visual indicators and ecological indicators in this research site. This result, along with the negative correlations that were found between contrast and woody vegetation species richness and between contrast and rarity suggests that using the contrast indicator is problematic both in general and especially for the small scale fragmented landscape of Ramat HaNadiv Park

The lack of correlation between indicators necessitated examining more carefully both the basic assumptions of the research and the methodology employed here.