The coastal iris
The coastal iris Photo by Alon Ron
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An estimated one-third of the plant life in Israel's coastal region is in danger of extinction, flora expert Gadi Pollak told scientists at a conference in Be'er Sheva this week.

Pollak, who lectures on the environment at the Kibbutzim College of Education, said the major cause of the problem is that the coastal area is both the most densely populated region in the country and home to the largest concentration of indigenous flora that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Of the 29 percent of coastal plant species considered endangered, more than two-thirds grow only along Israel's Mediterranean coast.

Pollak was one of several speakers at the annual conference of the Israel Society of Ecology and Environmental Sciences to urge the preservation of plant species in danger of extinction.

"We must protect as much space left to the habitats as possible," he said. "For example, near Rehovot and Kibbutz Givat Brenner there is a large swath of territory that is not a nature reserve, but must nonetheless be protected."

The stolonous gold crocus, the coastal iris and Rothschild's duck are among the 405 endangered plant species in Israel, out of a total of 2,388, Pollak said at the conference, which took place Monday and Tuesday at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

The coast is home to three main plant habitats - sand dunes, red loam soil, and coarse sand ridges, all of which have been eroded by construction and infrastructure projects.

Twenty-eight species of indigenous plants found near Israel's rivers and lakes - but not along the sea - are also endangered, experts at the conference said.