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Sunday, September 2, 2007

Israel leads in nature conservation

This report may not be quite as good as it seems, since, as noted a good deal of the open spaces are military areas in the Negev. Still, it is strange if North African countries do not have a larger proportion of open spaces, and Israel's achievement is all the more remarkable because we have one of the highest population densities in the world. It remains to be seen if this large proportion of preserved natural habitats can be maintained as population grows.
Last update - 12:06 02/09/2007    
By Zafrir Rinat, Haaretz Correspondent

Israel leads Mediterranean countries in terms of the proportion of its territory that is protected, according to a report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).
According to IUCN figures, the protected area in Israel constitutes 16 percent of the country's total area, as opposed to 11.7 percent in France, 7.7 percent in Spain, and 0.5 percent in Lebanon.
A protected open space consists of nature reserves, national parks, farmlands and forested areas. The numbers confirm that Israel has successfully allocated extensive areas to nature conservation.

However, the report overlooks the fact that a large amount of the open space in Israel is in military use, mostly in the Negev. While the IDF activities are environmentally unsustainable, a special agreement between the IDF and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority limits the damage they inflict.
The IUCN report paints a bleak picture of nature conservation in the Mediterranean area. It points to a sharp decline of animal species, which are distinctive to this part of the world.
Despite the increase of protected areas in the Mediterranean in recent years, the dwindling of flora and fauna has not subsided. Two thirds of marine mammals, a quarter of amphibian species, nearly half of shark species, more than half of freshwater fish species, and more than 10 percent of reptiles are in danger of extinction.
According to the IUCN, the Mediterranean basin is one of the most distinctive ecological habitats in the world, containing more than 25,000 flora species, roughly half of which are unique. Most of these species are exploited in the production of food, medications, spices and other products. Also, about half of the reptiles and two thirds of the amphibians are unique.
Two factors shadow Israel's environmental achievements: it is one of the seven countries that suffer from an acute water shortage, and has a high level of greenhouse gas emission per capita.
According to the IUCN, the inaccurate estimation of local ecological systems' profitability as well as the unregulated exploitation of natural resources are among the primary reasons behind the poor nature conservation in the area

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