M.Sc Thesis

M.Sc StudentGrossbard Shira
SubjectMethods for Evaluating the Ecological Systems in the
Landscape Planning Process: Vernal Pools in
Israel as a Case Study
DepartmentDepartment of Architecture and Town Planning
Supervisors ASSOCIATE PROF. Elissa Rosenberg
ASSOCIATE PROF. Daniel Eli Orenstein
Full Thesis text - in Hebrew Full thesis text - Hebrew Version


The vernal pool is a unique and vulnerable ecological system that is highly impacted by human pressures and activities. During the 20th century many pools disappeared from the Israeli landscape. Others were degraded, especially in the coastal plain, where they were exposed to severe development pressures. As a result, the benefits derived from ecosystem services provided by vernal pools were reduced, historical aquatic landscapes were lost and many species became endangered. Research has shown that despite efforts to protect, restore, create and enhance vernal pools in the urban environment, they continue to be degraded. Examination of current planning processes in Israel reveals that there is no consistent and standard method for assessing the ecological integrity of vernal pools, which is an essential stage in landscape planning. Therefore, the aim of this study is to create and test a simple tool for assessing ecological integrity of vernal pools, designed to be incorporated into the landscape planning process and implemented by landscape architects or planners, rather than requiring the involvement of experts.

The study examines a series of assessment methods for wetlands that are used around the world and share the common objective of evaluating the relative state of a particular wetland using a limited set of indicators. We define desired criteria for adopting the most suitable methods from among the choices. The methods deemed most suitable were FWRAP (Florida Wetland Rapid Assessment Procedure), ORAM (Ohio Rapid Assessment Method) and CRAM (California Rapid Assessment Method). They have each been applied to ecological assessments of wetlands and their results have been validated.

In the final step, we evaluated which of these three methods is the most suitable for Israel. They were each applied on seven Israeli vernal pools, selected as case studies. The application produced similar results in terms of the level of ecological integrity of each given pool. However, CRAM was found to be the most appropriate since it is a quantitative assessment system that was designed for vernal pools and is implemented in climatic and physical conditions similar to those in Israel. We modified the CRAM method to Israeli conditions, and defined it as ILRAM method (Israel Rapid Assessment Method). The results of the ILRAM application to the case studies were compared to results arising from the common method used today in Israel ("HaMaarag") and they were found to be comparable.

We conclude by recommending the ILRAM method for assessing ecological integrity of vernal pools in Israel. This method will allow landscape architects, planners or other persons who go through a brief training, to evaluate the state of vernal pools and to get results that similar to those derived from evaluations currently performed by experts.  In contrast to the expert approach, ILRAM can be completed without the need of sampling and indexes construction. ILRAM will contribute to a knowledge base of the scope, state and function of vernal pools; detect and characterize trends over time; evaluate the restoration and creation potential; and assess the effects of human activities on these ecosystems.