Extensive description of site:
Shiqmona reef is located at the margins of the headland formed by Mount Carmel, at the southern end of Haifa Bay and is composed of a series of offshore rounded platforms with raised rims, 20-30 m wide, running parallel to the coast to a length of 1500 m. The reef is built by sessile gastropods in the infralittoral fringe on an exposed rocky shore under high-energy conditions. The reef platforms are formed by the gregarious vermetids Dendropoma petraeum (Monterosato) and Vermetus triqueter (Bivona), endemic to the Mediterranean. Water depth at the reef's seaward face is 1-3 m. The porous structure of the vermetid reef and the underlining calcareous rocks allows for a rich community of endoliths: sponges, bivalves and crustaceans. The resulting local organic enrichment combined with the structural complexity of the edifice, has led to the establishment of an extraordinarily dense ichthyofauna of great diversity.
The reef was built up as a result of the delicate balance between marine erosion, tectonic uplifting and biogenic growth. It is a remarkable ecosystem, whose uniqueness is due to the extensive, continuous area of vermetid reef, biogenic rocks and Upper Cretaceous calcareous rocks. The porosity of the rocks enabled the activity of in-living sponges, drilling bivalves and other animals, which has resulted in the development of a rich endolithic fauna. The high abiotic and biotic structural complexity of the reef has led to the establishment of an extraordinary diverse fauna with up to 30 species of fish, with a density of over a thousand fish per 100m2.
The combination of a temperate biogeographic region with subtropical hydrological conditions (high temperature and salinity), inhabited originally by Atlanto – Mediterranean biota and exposed to the invasion of Red Sea species (Via Suez Canal), has formed a unique marine biotic community in the vermetid reef of Shiqmona.
The littoral and infralittoral biota of the Levant is undergoing a profound change due to the influx that have entered the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal and have modified the composition and structure of the biota. If global warming were to affect the Mediterranean sea-water temperature, then thermophilic invasive species would gain a distinct advantage over the native fauna. The infralittoral biota of Shiqmona serves as a sentinel for those changes. The 1500 m long vermetid platform consists of rimmed limestone ledges covered by dense aggregations of gregarious, reef-building, sessile, endemic snails.
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Description of fauna and flora:
The importance of the reefs lies in the richness of life they sustain, in their rarity, and in the physical protection from erosion they provide the shoreline. The flora, as well as the fish, molluscs, and decapod and amphipod crustaceans are well documented.
Shiqmona is only marginally utilized now for recreational activities, mainly by inhabitants of the neighboring residential areas (strolling, sunbathing & seabathing, wind- and body-surfing, recreational line-fishing). It has no economical use currently.
The site is pristine with respect to both anthropogenic and natural stresses, relative to the conditions dominant in the region, and the Nature Reserve is not inhabited. However, it is situated south of the town of Haifa, population 270,500. Offshore limited purse-seine fishing occurs seasonally.
All facilities for marine biodiversity research are available, including seagoing research vessels, fully equipped laboratories and a library, at the adjacent National Institute of Oceanography, Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research.
Available database and website:
The current species inventory is available from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.
Commitment and ongoing research:
The Israel Nature and Parks Authority undertook an inventory of the biota as part of the process of declaration of the site as a nature reserve. The adjacent National Institute of Oceanography, Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research undertakes biodiversity-related research in the area.