The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

The Biodiversity Research Group

Our Research


Ecological gradients & ecotones Species introductions & expansions Urban environments

Agricultural landscape


Research Interests

Our research focuses on understanding the patterns and processes shaping biodiversity and their implications for conservation in a changing world. We work at several levels, from the ecosystem and community down to the genetic level, aiming to unveil how the link between these factors shapes biological diversity in space and time. We combine in our research field work, experiments, GIS, remote sensing and molecular techniques.

We are interested especially in these main directions:

  1. Biodiversity along species ranges and ecological gradients.
  2. Biodiversity in human-dominated landscapes: This includes studies on both native and alien species in natural, agricultural and urban environs.
  3. Conservation planning and prioritization at local, regional and global scales.
  4. Systematic conservation planning and the importance of collaboration in the Mediterranean Basin and Mediterranean Sea.

OurResearch


Ongoing studies - Dr. Salit Kark, research group members and collaborations:

Ecological gradients and ecotones as biodiversity hotspots

This study is funded by the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) since 2004 and is comparing patterns and processes shaping biodiversity in two different systems: elevation vs. depth gradients. We are studying how bird, butterfly and plant diversity changes along an elevation gradient in Mt. Hermon from 300-2200m in an aim to better understand whether continuous environmental changes can lead to different rates of change in diversity. We are using remote sensing approaches to quantify and study changes in multiple variables along the gradient. Group members working on this study are Eran Banker, Nurit Ilan, Oded Levanoni, Guy Pe’er and Hagit Tamari. We are collaborating in this project with Avi Shmida from the Hebrew University and with Noam Levin from Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion University.

 Hermon study

This study on altitudinal changes is compared with a study in the Red Sea examining biodiversity changes in fish and corals along depth gradients. Group members working on this study are Eran Brokovich and Orit Nir.


The same questions are addressed in a large scale study focusing on biodiversity patterns of all New World birds in collaboration with Tom Allnutt from the World Wildlife Fund-US, Lisa Manne from University of Toronto, and Paul Williams from the Natural History Museum in London, and Noam Levin.

 

In a collaborative study with Alon Angert from Weizmann Institute, we are examining global patterns and rates of change in various biological parameters (e.g., NDVI, a measure of “greenness”) using satellite images and data.

 

All these studies will enable us to better understand and predict the role of ecological gradients and ecotonal areas in maintaining biodiversity and rarity.

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Biodiversity in human-dominated landscapes

Species introductions and expansions

In this framework, in a study funded by the Sixth Framework of the European Union since 2005, we are part of a multi-country consortium called DAISIE (Delivering Alien Species Inventories for Europe). This research, in which we are responsible for the bird study, aims to generate a database of invasive alien species in Europe and to use it to study the patterns and processes determining the success and failure of species, their impacts and to make predictions that will be helpful for conservation of native biodiversity. Group members working on this study are Tali Rosenberg and Assaf Schwartz.

 

As part of a study funded by the Israel Ministry of Science and Technology since 2004, we aim to examine the role of alien species in shaping native and alien biodiversity. Applying field work in Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park and several other areas in Israel, we are studying how the interactions between alien species affect their establishment success and impact native species of birds using experimental nest boxes and a study of natural nesting sites. A second study examined the establishment process of alien birds in Israel, focusing on the parrot and starling family, marking birds, examining nesting success and foraging behavior. As part of these studies, we are collaborating with scientists in Bar Ilan University looking at the educational aspects in learning and dynamic investigation of students and this study has a wide public outreach to children joining our work, learning and teaching the public about this important conservation issue. Group members working on these studies are Yotam Orchan, Assaf Schwartz, Ohad Hatzofe, Eran Banker and Racheli Ben-David.

 

As part of a collaborative study with the Nature and Parks Authority we are examining the range shifts in the hooded crow, a native bird that has widely increased its range in recent decades. Group members working on this study are Ohad Hatzofe. This study is part of a collaboration with David Saltz from Ben Gurion University.


Invasive species' research2


Biodiversity in Urban Environments

This study focuses on the factors shaping biodiversity in urban areas, comparing different areas within an urban environment, and aiming to understand and provide information on what enables native (vs. alien) species to persist in human dominated landscapes and especially in urban environments. We have examined biodiversity patterns of birds and plants in forty locations in the city of Jerusalem, combining in our work remote sensing tools to quantify habitat variables. We are also studying biodiversity patterns of birds in Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park and its surroundings, focusing on native and alien species, and within the natives, comparing in both regions urban species that are very well adapted to those less successful in the city. This aims to better understand what factors make a species a successful urban species and potentially a successful invader. Group members working on this study are Eran Banker, Gilad Bino, Samech Darwshi, Adam Schalimtzek and Maya Sella. We are collaborating with Ruth Kark from the Hebrew University and Noam Levin on this direction and with Andrew Iwaniuk from University of Alberta on other aspects.

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Biodiversity in agricultural landscapes along ecological gradients

In this study, funded by Nekudat Hen of Yad Hanadiv, The Rothschild Foundation since 2005, we are studying how butterfly diversity is impacted by different agricultural regimes along an ecological gradient in Israel. We aim to provide information that will improve our understanding of how much biodiversity is maintained in agricultural landscapes and what we can do to increase the biodiversity in these areas. Group members working on this study are Guy Pe’er. 

Biodiversity in agricultural lands


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