Agricultural landscapes as ecological corridors – A case study
Advisors: Dr. Assaf Shwartz and Prof. Yohay Carmel
Development in the past few decades has caused a major decline in biodiversity worldwide, and more species are expected to become extinct in the near future. Conservation efforts so far focused on increasing nature-reserves and improving their quality but such an increase is difficult and may not result in the desired increase in biodiversity because of geographic and economic biases in reserve location and size. Instead, multifunctional landscapes with environment-friendly agriculture may support both food-production and conservation goals, but such an approach may cause loses in yield and, in turn, economic costs.
In our research we examine the trade-offs that emerge from such approach, and compare it with the traditional approach of nature reserves. Our case-study area is located in Emek-Harod valley in Israel, an agricultural area with small semi-natural patches that separates two important ecoregions in Israel (Galillee and the Shomron). The research combines an ecological survey designed to evaluate the ecological value of different land-uses in the valley with field-level manipulation designed to evaluate the costs of implementing agro-environmental techniques. The results of these two evaluations will be combined into a spatially-explicit model to select the planning alternatives that will maximize the ecological benefits and minimize the costs for the farmers. Our research will have new insights about better planning of agricultural area, which are crucial for promoting good policy-practices in this field.