Adhering to the “resources know no borders” concept, experts involved in a
multinational, decade-long Jordan Valley hydrological project hope that their
research will not only help preserve the area’s ecosystem but also promote
future regional cooperation through science.
“Any management that we’re
doing in one country will affect the other,” said Prof. Katja Tielbörger,
scientific director of the Global Change in Hydrological Cycle: Jordan River
(GLOWA JR) project. “It’s nice to develop strategies of climate adaptation, but
eventually they might end up really inefficient because they’re not coordinated
with the neighbor.”
Tielbörger spoke on Sunday at “Science and the
response to climate change in Israel,” the first in a two-day conference
sponsored by the GLOWA JR project, Tel Aviv University’s Porter School of
Environmental Studies and the Israel Palestine Center for Research and
The conference signaled the coming end of the 11- year
interdisciplinary and international research venture, which has aimed to provide
scientific support for sustainable water management in the Jordan River
At the conference, experts and stakeholders involved with the
program were to discuss the results from the past decade of water management
analysis as well as the aftermath of the project.
The project has been
financed by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research as part of the
larger GLOWA research initiative.
While the team working on the project
includes members from Germany, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and
other locations, the Department of Plant Ecology of the University of Tübingen,
in Germany coordinated the project. The Israeli members, who include professors
and researchers from all over the country, have been led by Prof. Alpert Pinhas,
the head of the Porter School of Environmental Studies.
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The third and
current phase of GLOWA JR began in January 2009, and the project will officially
conclude this June.
The Israeli team produced all kinds of models,
examined trends and conducted sub-projects across a variety of sectors. For
example, the researchers found that from 2010 to 2050, there will be an
approximate increase in mean summer temperatures of up to 3 degrees, an increase
of mean annual temperatures of up to 2 degrees, and a decrease of annual mean
precipitation in range of 10 to 20 percent in the Jordan River region, according
to Pinhas. Meanwhile, the occurrence of extreme weather events would rise, he
Models for biodiversity showed that hydrological changes would not
have quite so dramatic an impact on the region’s natural ecosystem, according to
By setting up experimental areas of drought conditions in
normally wet areas and supplementing rainfall in typically dryer areas, a Tel
Aviv University Molecular Biology and Plant Ecology Department team was able to
see how communities might respond. Prof. Marcelo Sternberg confirmed that the
vegetation mostly appeared to be resilient to the induced climate changes.
However, these changes were continuous, induced over several years, and
Sternberg warned that an increase in extreme events might not yield the same
In the case of the region’s animals, however, researchers warned
that both climate change and land transformation will cause species to shift
their distributions to the west and northwest.
As more and more
evaporative water loss occurs, the activities of the species will be more and
more limited, according to Prof. Tamar Dayan of the zoology department at Tel
Aviv University’s Faculty of Life Sciences.
To ensure that the species
will remain intact in the region, all three governments will need to employ
changes in their environmental policies and practice, some of which may be very
costly, Dayan said.
“This is a place where there is a lot of room for
regional cooperation,” she said.
“Ecosystem services are increasingly a
common currency in the international quest for environmental
Germany is just the country to help move this
cooperation along, Tielbörger said.
Collaborations have already become a
“significant side effect” of the decade-long program, which has led to both
“confidence- building” and “a genuine trilateral dialogue,” according to
During the last stakeholder workshop held in Germany,
participants from all the countries expressed interest in establishing a
regional center for integrated water resource management under climate change,
as a result of the project, she said.
Now, the German Federal Ministry of
Education and Research may be interested in funding such a center, and in
September will meet with regional decision-makers in Istanbul for a final
evaluation, issuing a decision by December.
“Germany is willing to
function as a catalyst but they’re not willing to fund the initiative to time
immemorial,” Tielbörger said. “In the long run this needs to be funded by the
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