“The threats to ecosystems in an era of climate change are no longer fears, but facts. Sadly there is a gap between the importance of the subject and awareness, and also between awareness and responsibility; those who are aware do not always take responsibility. We are raising the subject in the hope that the government and the relevant bodies will invest incentives for preparation for climate change.”
These words were spoken by MK Uri Maklev, Chairman of the Knesset Science and Technology Committee, during the discussion on the topic “Threats to ecosystems in an era of climate change.” The discussion, which took place on Tuesday June 23rd, was initiated by Dr. Sinaia Netanyahu, Chief Scientist of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, to commemorate Environment Day in the Knesset. Among others, the “Israel - National Ecosystem Assessment” project was presented by Dr. Alon Lotan, the project coordinator. His presentation was preceded and described in a lecture by Prof. Uriel Safriel, one of the project’s chairmen, “The significance of biodiversity and its importance as a national asset”. MK Uri Maklev and MK Yifat Shasha Biton, as well as representatives of environmental bodies and initiatives, were present at the discussion.
Safriel noted that the average Israeli is not aware of the connection between human well-being (or even existence) and the open landscapes and their biodiversity. “Species are disappearing worldwide at an accelerating rate; following closely is harm to human well-being and very existence, and this is because many of the species, as all of them together, contribute to our well-being and to our very existence. The world’s vegetation cover regulates atmospheric composition and water cycling, provides food, and more.”
MK Maklev raised the subject of the draining of the Hula – did the swamps also contribute to ecosystem services? We were taught that they contained only malaria. “It’s a matter of education and culture,” answered Safriel. “We wanted to conquer the wilderness – in fact we wanted to stop receiving ecosystem services. The Hula, for example, maintained water quality in the Kineret. We receive the most important services for free without being aware of them.”
Following Prof. Safriel, Dr. Lotan presented the project and its primary objectives: increasing awareness of our dependence on functioning ecosystems and their biodiversity on the one hand, and producing tools for open landscape managers on the other hand. Dr. Lotan spoke about the work of the project’s work groups: collecting information about specific ecosystems, lateral examination of Israel’s ecosystems, and economic, health and social evaluation of the services provided to us by our ecosystems. Other important topics include vectors of change, scenarios and responses: how do we as a society impact on ecosystems and how will we deal with damage to service provision? MK Maklev showed interest in the “Israel - National Ecosystem Assessment” project and expressed a desire to cooperate and accompany the project. “This is very important work. It is important to us to support the project.”