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In Israel, the Mediterranean Sea plays a crucial role in our society, culture, history, and economy.
The Levantine Basin is particularly burdened as a result of anthropogenic influences such as
accelerated climate change, fishing pressures, and various forms of pollution which have all had
a major effect on the ecosystem. One of the major events impacting the basin took place in
1965 with the completion of the Aswan Dam. Prior to the construction, nutrients were regularly
released into the basin, which supported marine plant growth and, in turn, increased productivity
for the local ecosystem. This productivity had such an impact that its benefits could be felt as far
north as Lebanon. However, after the Aswan Dam was completed, the nutrients once reaching the
sea were blocked, drastically reducing primary productivity in the entire region. Ultimately, this
has impacted the entire ecological system and its inhabitants.
For these reasons, the study of the water, sediment, biota, and interactions is vital to elucidating
these shifts in the system. It became apparent that a strong scientific baseline within the marine
space did not exist, and data that was being collected was partially accessible, fragmented,
or inconsistent by various institutions. Thus, the Morris Kahn Marine Research Station was
established in 2015, by Professor Dan Tchernov, and under the auspices of the Leon H. Charney
School of Marine Sciences in the University of Haifa. His aim was to provide a multi-scalar, multiparameter,
open-access database for the public and academics to utilize.
The station has produced, refined, and conducted a long-term monitoring programme that
collects data on marine biogeochemistry, pathogens, microbiome, apex predators, and fish, algal
and invertebrates biodiversity on the rocky reefs. The framework is both bottom-up through
the nutrients in the food web, and top-down through the marine apex predators (sharks, tuna,
marine mammals, large bony fish). This information is crucial to help us understand and predict
the ongoing effects of environmental and climate change, and to enable scientifically-based
management decisions to be made, which will affect our lives and the lives of future generations
of Israelis that interact with our local sea. This is especially critical at a time when most of our
ecosystem services and marine natural resources are threatened.
By Dr Leigh Levine