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Map of all water bodies in Israel launched to mark World Wetlands Day

Project aims to help local authorities control mosquito populations without harming rich biodiversity found in some aquatic ecosystems

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

A winter pond formed from seasonal rainwater in the Hadera Forest, northern Israel. (Yaniv Cohen, INPA).
A winter pond formed from seasonal rainwater in the Hadera Forest, northern Israel. (Yaniv Cohen, INPA).

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Environmental Protection Ministry marked World Wetlands Day on Tuesday by publishing a map of all water bodies in the country — lakes, streams, swamps and seasonable winter ponds, as well as industrial and effluent ponds — according to their ecological value.

The map (labeled in Hebrew) is aimed at helping local authorities to work out how best to implement mosquito control so as not to harm the rich biodiversity found in some aquatic ecosystems.

Ministry guidelines on mosquito control divide breeding grounds into four categories, from “high ecological value” to “without ecological value.”

Dr. Dana Milstein, the INPA’s wetland habitat ecologist, explained that aquatic habitats with a healthy and functioning ecosystem would enable natural regulation of mosquitos via the use of predators such as water insects, local fish and amphibians. More frequent pest control would be needed where pollution or destruction had provided the conditions for mosquito larvae and pupae to proliferate.

World Wetlands Day, sponsored by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), aims to raise public awareness about aquatic habitats. This year’s theme emphasizes the importance of water bodies and aquatic habitats as sources of fresh water and calls for their rehabilitation for the benefit of nature and humankind.

Land saturated with water, either permanently or seasonally, is home to many species of plants and animals. Natural water bodies help to filter and clean water before it seeps underground and also absorb excess rainfall, helping to prevent flooding.

Wetlands worldwide have been damaged or destroyed by construction, draining for agriculture, dumping of pesticides, sewage and garbage, invasion by alien species and global warming.

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance was adopted in Ramsar 46 years ago, on February 2, 1971.

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