A Geomorphic and Environmental Evaluation of the Hula Drainage Project, Israel

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The drainage of Lake Hula and its swamps in the 1950s created a new landform and changed the hydrological and sedimentological regime in the Hula valley. The affected area extended over 40 km2 and the work basically improved the drainage conditions of another 20 km2 that were periodically affected by flooding. This man-made project marked the termination of one of the oldest documented lakes and surrounding wetlands in history, with a rich and diverse aquatic biota. The reclaimed swampy land started to settle immediately upon drainage, mainly due to the compaction of the peat layers. The mean yearly settling rate was 8 cm yr–1. Agricultural development of the reclaimed land was unsuccessful, and soils were affected by continuous underground fires. Weathered peat soils, without a vegetation cover, were eroded by wind. Another ecological effect was the release of nutrients by the decomposing peat, with the nutrients carried by the Jordan river floods into the eutrophic Lake Kinneret. To prevent the natural subsidence a small shallow lake, 110 ha in area, and a network of canals were created in the 1990s. This new wetland and the adjacent agricultural areas are the targets of a multidisciplinary monitoring program. An eco-tourism development project is currently being planned. Almost 50 years after starting the drainage project the present trend is to restore at least a small fragment of the previous landscape and ecosystem.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-8470.00171

Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of Haifa, Israel

Publication date: July 1, 2002

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