Numerous, endangered and neglected: Biodiversity survey of threatened Israeli reptiles

Widespread and accelerating extinctions and population declines of reptile species is evident worldwide, occurring in Israel as well. Many Israeli reptiles are threatened with extinction, about half the species are ranked as threatened in the Israeli red-list. The increasing desertification of southern Israel and the increasing developmental pressures thoughout the country may well have driven distribution shifts, and could even have spelled the death knell of many populations. Furthermore, fragmentation may have resulted in the genetic isolation of some populations of threatened species, making them all the more vulnerable to extinction, as well as of high potential taxonomic interest. Additional problems are the lack of research manifested in the lack of surveys and collection data, and the lack of molecular sampling which is essential for any use to establish taxonomic status and phylogeographic relationships.
We intend to survey threatened Israeli reptiles in order to establish their status and population trends, identify threatened species biodiversity hotspots while examining whether past hotspots still harbour threatened species, and examine whether geographic ranges have shifted. We also aim to resolve taxonomic and phylogeographic issues and examine genetic evidence for fragmentation across the ranges, both to help establish correct biodiversity assessments and to help the planning of effective conservation measures.

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