Protecting Israel's Ecoystems
Israel’s rich and unique nature provides many important ecosystem services for its citizens; from existential needs such as oxygen for important, to important services such as pest control and intangible benefits such as relaxation– nature, and a healthy biodiversity is vital for society’s survival.
Israel may be small but is blessed with more than 20 distinct types of ecosystem. Of these about half are found within IDF restricted areas and a further 20% are protected in nature reserves. Protecting Israel’s ecosystems and open spaces their size as well as contiguousness is one of SPNI’s key goals.
Moving to a Model of Community Stewardship
While SPNI has, and continues to have success, in high profile campaigns such as those to protect Palmachim and Betzet Beaches, many other important local nature sites are continually under threat from off-road vehicles, construction, illegal dumping, sewage, agricultural pollutions, man-made fires and invasive species. It has become clear that us that the community needs to become involved proactively to protect these ecosystems.
Since 2014 SPNI has been seeking to mentor community groups that are active, or want to become active, in protecting their local natural assets. From dozens of applicants less than 10 are chosen each year to receive specialist ecological training from our professional staff in how to protect sandy dunes, winter pools, loam soil, salt flats, loess plains and Mediterranean batha scrublands.
In a series of workshops they learn about the ecology of their special ecosystem and the plants and animals that live there, how to look after them, how to plan events and how to influence decision makers. They also receive seed money to help purchase equipment and promote and plan events.
Over the past year, with SPNI’s assistance, events have been organized all over the country by the community for the community. Community members provide explanations about the habitats and their importance, man activity stations and detail the threats facing the ecosystems. Thus, hundreds of residents who have never been aware of the nature on their very doorstep have been educated and empowered.
The power of local community lies in the fact that they are constantly present and can quickly notice changes in the ecosystem’s condition. Most importantly it is their local nature and they understand that if they don’t care for it, their children won’t grow up to see it. As local residents take more interest in nature, politicians and decision makers do too, which means when natural habitats are threatened they are more willing to take action to protect them.