Ph.D Thesis

Ph.D StudentShabtay Ateret
SubjectEnclosed Marine Areas and Infrastructures Along the Israeli
Mediterranean Coast: Burden or Benefit to the
Marine Environment?
DepartmentDepartment of Architecture and Town Planning
Supervisors ASSOCIATE PROF. Michelle Portman
PROF. Yohay Carmel
Full Thesis textFull thesis text - English Version


The growing human population increasingly requires resources from the marine environment, such as energy, food and space. As a result, conservation of the marine environment faces many challenges from coastal infrastructures which greatly affect the marine environment, particularly by bringing about the loss of biodiversity and habitat.  The goal of this study is to integrate marine conservation within marine spatial planning for promoting ecosystem protection in infrastructure areas that limit access to their area.

This research examined coastal infrastructure areas that prohibit unauthorized access to their territory. These infrastructures are typically viewed as threats to the marine environment, yet due to the limited access to their territory, they may support marine ecosystem function and enhance biodiversity. In this research, I developed a marine spatial planning approach which aims to find ways to meet development needs while enhancing marine conservation through improved policy and practices. As a case study I focused on two coastal infrastructures along the Israeli Mediterranean coast which prohibit unauthorized access to their territory. In each case study, I assessed fish and invertebrate species diversity and distribution through field surveys.  Later, I used the Ecopath with Ecosim (EwE) program to construct a food-web model for one of the study sites. The model was used to examine various infrastructure management scenarios and their potential contribution to marine conservation thus highlighting infrastructure management's effect on the surrounding ecosystem.

The field surveys revealed high species diversity in addition to higher numbers of rare and vulnerable species in enclosed infrastructure areas compared to reference sites. Following the results of the survey which suggest that species abundance and distribution were significantly affected by the infrastructure’s management of access limitations, I focused on two alternatives for the development of the area: For recreation activity versus industrial activity. For each alternative I examined different management strategies to understand the effect of specific management strategies on the ecosystem within the infrastructure. Examination of management scenarios suggests that exclusive management by a single sector may contribute to marine conservation goals even when conservation is not an objective of that sector, whereas cooperative management may not yield the expected contribution to marine conservation goals. The enforcement of access prohibition regulations is expected to maintain the abundance of vulnerable species and therefore may contribute to increased connectivity within a network of existing and proposed marine protected areas along the coast.

These results are a significant contribution to sustainable development and to ecosystem-based management, as they demonstrate a unique approach that allows operation of marine conservation beyond that provided by marine protected areas. Establishing conditions for coastal infrastructure to support marine ecosystems will enhance possibilities for marine conservation within and around sensitive and highly impacted marine areas. These results are especially relevant to the process of marine spatial planning, which can consider the benefit of various users while promoting marine environmental protection. Adopting the suggested planning approach in a planning process may result in creative solutions to marine environmental challenges and therefore may realize sustainable development and ecosystem-based management.