I am an enthusiastic marine ecologist, dedicating much of my time to promotion of marine environmental issues, through research, restoration and planning, working as a consultant for governmental and non-governmental organizations worldwide. My major goal is to halt the worrying degradation of marine ecosystems and their essential services to humans. Likewise, I am working on solutions for sustainable exploitation of the sea as a source of food and as an alternative livelihood basis for fishermen and other ocean stakeholders.
Prof. Avigdor Abelson
Basic and Applied Research Interests
1. Restoration Ecology; restoration of marine ecosystems
2. Ecological processes and principles of benthic marine environments, with emphasis on human impact on marine ecosystems
3. Artificial Reefs: Planning, design and implementation
4. Settlement and recruitment of benthic organisms
5. Development and implementation of bio-monitoring methods (from molecular to community levels).
6. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and community-based management
7. FADs (Fish Aggregating Devices) and Fishery Management
8. Sustainable aquaculture - Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA)
9. Coral reef ecology
10. Marine bioinvasion – Invasion and introduction of exotic marine organisms and their environmental impact on marine communities
11. Tropical seamounts
12. Pelagic megafauna species research and conservation – Manta rays
Current and Upcoming Projects…
Artificial reefs and coral restoration
Over the last several decades, a massive decline in coral reefs has been recorded worldwide. The causes of reef degradation are mainly related to human activities (notably pollution, overfishing, and destructive fishing practices, and climate change). At present, approximately 75% of the world’s coral reefs are considered to be under threat due to anthropogenic influence. The decline in coral reefs and their ecosystem services raises an urgent need to conceive solutions that may promote the recovery of reefs to a healthy and functioning sustainable state. One suggested coral reef restoration tool is the use of Artificial Reefs (AR). Artificial reefs can be placed in proximity to natural reefs with the purpose of encouraging the recruitment of organisms to the degraded reef area. The recruitment of reef organisms in general such as reef-building corals, reef fishes, and crustose coralline algae (CCA) are essential to the enhancement and foundation of coral reefs. However, recruitment processes are complex and require additional research to be fully understood. The main goal of this project is to examine the effects of different factors on the supply of organisms, either as larvae (recruitment) or as adults (spill-over), to artificial structures placed in proximity to natural reefs. The results of the study may shed light on new aspects of recruitment, spillover, and artificial reefs, and may be used as a base for development of new CRR approaches in order to improve current methods in use.
Seamounts may hold keys to improving conservation of coral reefs, pelagic megafauna species, and sustainable fishing
Tropical seamounts are home to coral reefs, numerous reef-fish species, and serve as aggregation sites for pelagic megafauna such as manta rays, attracted to the unique abundance of food and cleaning stations. This makes seamounts a coveted fishing ground for fishermen who exploit these extraordinary habitats, which leads to the deterioration of coral reefs and fish stocks. In addition, it makes seamounts prime sites for ecotourism and ecological studies. The goal of this study is to promote science-based fishery and conservation management of manta rays and coral reefs coupled with enhanced ecotourism. This will potentially enable the ecosystem and the species it supports to recover, while providing an additional and reliable livelihood source to coastal communities. This study has potential broad applications for sustainable management and conservation of manta rays and the ecosystems that support them. Furthermore, the significant role of the local fishing communities in this project will help to ensure the continuous and crucial involvement of local stakeholders in the conservation process.
Manta ray research and conservation
This project uses ecotourism to collaborate with volunteers from around the world to better understand manta ray biology and ecology as well as their critical conservation. Manta rays are an important source of livelihood in South-East Asia, with revenue deriving from tourism and fisheries. Reports of a decrease in touristic encounters and fishing yields might be indicative of a decline in local and regional manta populations. This project aims to use manta ray population studies as a way to provide meaningful experiences for tourists, while working with local stakeholders to stress the importance of conservation. Improved tourism causes an increase in nature and ecology oriented visitors, which ultimately leads to economic growth within local communities. This could offer a potential sustainable alternative to ongoing and detrimental fishing practices.
For a full list of publications and a more detailed research theme, please read here.
Fine, M., Y. Aluma, E. Meroz-Fine, A. Abelson, Y. Loya. 2005. Acabaria erythraea (Octocorallia: Gorgonacea) a successful invader to the Mediterranean Sea? Coral reefs 24: 161-164.
Abelson, A., R. Olinky, S. Gaines. 2005. Coral recruitment to the reefs of Eilat, Red Sea: temporal and spatial variation, and possible effects of anthropogenic disturbances. Mar. Poll. Bull. 50: 576–582.
Abelson, A. 2006. Artificial reefs versus coral transplantation as restoration tools for mitigating coral reef deterioration: benefits, concerns and proposed guidelines. Bull. Mar. Sci. 78; 151-159.
Abelson, A. and S. Gaines. 2006. A call for a standardized protocol of coral recruitment research and outlines for its conception. Mar. Poll. Bull. Dec;50(12):1745-8.
Shaish, L., A. Abelson and B. Rinkevich. 2006. Branch to colony trajectory in a modular organism: Pattern formation in the Indo-Pacific coral Stylophora pistillata. Developmental Dynamics 235:2111-2121
Pasternak, Z., B. Blasius, Abelson A. and Achituv Y., 2006. Host-finding behaviour and navigation capabilities of symbiotic zooxanthellae. Coral Reefs 25:201-207.
Pasternak, Z., A. Diamant, Abelson A. 2007. Co-invasion of a Red Sea fish and its ectoparasitic monogenean, Polylabris cf. mamaevi into the Mediterranean: observations on oncomiracidium behavior and infection levels in both seas. Parasitology Research 100:721-727.
Ben-Tzvi, A. Abelson, S. D. Gaines, M. S. Sheehy, G.L. Paradis and M. Kiflawi. The inclusion of sub Detection Limit (DL) LA-ICPMS data, in the analysis of otolith microchemistry by use of a "Palindrome Sequence Analysis" (PaSA). Limnol. Oceanogr. – methods 5:97-105.
Shaish, L., A. Abelson and B. Rinkevich. 2007. Branch to colony trajectory in a modular organism: Pattern formation in the Indo-Pacific coral Stylophora pistillata. PLoS One 7:e644(1-9)
Ben-Tzvi, M. Kiflawi, H. Gildor and A. Abelson. Possible effects of downwelling on the recruitment of coral-reef fishes to the Eilat coral reefs (Limnol. Oceanogr. accepted).
Zvuloni, A., O. Mokady, G. Bernardi, S. Gaines, A. Abelson. Local scale genetic structure in coral populations in Eilat, Red Sea: an indication of selection? (submitted).
Ben-Tzvi, O., M. Zibdeh, Y. Ahmed, V. Bresler, and A. Abelson. Coral reef monitoring: Examination of the reliability of coral community indices based on comparisons with cytological tests. (submitted)
Ben-Tzvi, M. Kiflawi, M. El-Zibdah, M. S. Sheehy , G.L. Paradis and A. Abelson. Otolith-based indication of the different routes followed by Chromis viridis recruiting to the coral reefs of the northern Gulf of Aqaba (submitted)