Mammals Distributions Across a Steep Climate Gradient
As soon as I finished my PhD, I was recruited as a quantitative ecologist for Israel’s National Nature Assessment Program, working within the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History, at Tel Aviv University. Specifically, I am responsible for analyzing the data of the entire state’s long-term biodiversity monitoring program, collected from hundreds of fixed sites and across multiple trophic levels on the ground and for vegetation using remote sensing tools as well. Israel is located between Europe, Asia, and Africa. For many species this region is the southern or northern edge of their extent. The geographic placement presents a unique opportunity to study species densities and habitat use across adjacent ecosystems using a unified methodology.
Specifically, the program deploys ~800 camera traps to survey mammals across 10 habitats, each unique in terms of climate, vegetation structure, vegetation productivity, and degree of anthropogenic development. Ranging from south to north: Hyper arid lowland desert (Arava Valley) is characterized by extreme low annual precipitation of >30 mm and an average summer temperature of 31°C; Arid highland desert (Negev Highlands) is a mountainous a rocky terrain characterized by low annual precipitation of ~80 mm and mean summer temperature of 26°C; Arid steppe area is a transitional landscape that connects Mediterranean region, Judea desert and Negev desert. Mean annual precipitation ranges between150-300 mm and varies between years. Mean summer temperature is ~25°C; Mediterranean highland shrubland (Judea Highlands) is a mountainous area characterized by mean annual precipitation of 350-500 mm and mean summer temperature of 28°C; Coastal Mediterranean shrubland (Mt. Carmel) is a mountainous area characterized by mean annual precipitation of 500-600 mm and mean summer temperature of 27°C; Inland Mediterranean shrubland (Galilee Mts.) is a mountainous area characterized by mean annual precipitation of 500-800 mm and mean summer temperature of 29°C; Planted conifer forests are made up of Pinus halepensis trees. This species is native to restricted areas in the Mediterranean region of Israel, and in the last century were planted throughout the region in a major forestation initiative. These forests can be found in all three Mediterranean ecozones stated above. Climate and bedrock attributes are the same as Mediterranean shrub ecozones (described above); Northern steppe (Golan Heights) is characterized by mean annual precipitation of 400-650 mm and mean summer temperature of 29°C. Bedrock is mainly basalt with occasional sand stones on the surface (Noy-Meir 1995).
Camera trap transect locations across a climate and habitat gradient (light blue circles with X), spatial and climatic attributes of 10 monitored ecological units across Israel- hyper-arid desert (A); Arid highland desert (B); Arid steppe (C); 3 Mediterranean Maquis units: highlands (D), coast (E); inland (F); 3 conifer forests units (G) (Mediterranean: highlands, coast, inland); and northern steppe (H). Land cover by Hamaarag. Normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) based on Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data obtained from National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) TERRA and AQUA satellites. Average temperature in Celsius. Average annual precipitation in mm.
Our latest publication on the limiting factors of striped hyaena distribution across Israel was accepted to Zoology of the Middle East. This is the most extensive sampling of striped hyaena across several ecosystems using a unified methodology.