Mapping human induced landscape changes in Israel between the end of the 19Th century and the beginning of the 21Th century

Gad Schaffer*, Noam Levin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


This paper examines changes in Israel's landscape by comparing two time periods, 1881 and 2011. For this purpose we compared land cover derived from the Palestine Exploration Fund historical map to a present land cover map that was compiled from 38 different present-day GIS layers. The research aims were (1) to quantitatively examine what were the changes in Israel's landscape between 1881 and 2011; (2) to identify and explain spatial patterns in these landscape changes. Landscape transformation was categorized into five classes: 'residual bare' (no change in natural vegetation, mostly in desert areas); 'residual' (i.e. remnant; no change in natural vegetation class); 'transformed' (changes between different natural vegetation areas); 'replaced' (area which became managed); 'removed' (no or minimal natural vegetation). We found that only 21% of the area retained similar landscape classes as in the past, with the largest changes taking place in ecoregions that were favorable for developing agriculture - Jezreel Valley and the Sharon Plain. Two physical factors had a strong effect on the type of change in the landscape: (1) most of the agricultural areas and human settlements were found in areas ranging between 400-600 mm/year (2) natural land cover features were more common in areas with steeper slopes. We found that the majority of protected areas, 54.6%, are comprised of remnant vegetation classes (i.e. residual transformation class) however more than half of protected areas are located in desert areas and are thus biased in their representation of land cover classes.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)110-145
Number of pages36
JournalJournal of Landscape Ecology(Czech Republic)
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014


  • GIS
  • compilation
  • historical maps
  • land cover/use
  • landscape transformation/changes


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