Prof. Avigdor Abelson

מחלקה לזואולוגיה סגל אקדמי בכיר
Prof. Avigdor Abelson
Phone: 03-6407690
Another phone: 03-6406936
Fax: 03-6407304
Office: Sherman - Life Sciences, 207


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.

Research Interests

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.

Recent Publications


For a full list of publications and a more detailed research theme, please read here.


Since 2005:

 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. 2007.  Possible effects of downwelling on the recruitment of coral-reef fishes to the Eilat coral reefs. Limnol. Oceanogr.  52:2618-2628.  


Zvuloni, A., O. Mokady, G. Bernardi, S. Gaines, A. Abelson. 2008. Local scale genetic structure in coral populations in Eilat, Red Sea: an indication of selection? Mar. Poll. Bull. 56: 430-438. 


Ben-Tzvi, O., M. Kiflawi, S. D. Gaines, M. Al-Zibdah, M. S. Sheehy, G.L. Paradis and Abelson, A. 2008.  Tracking recruitment pathways of Chromis viridis in the Gulf of Aqaba using otolith chemistry. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 359: 229-238.  


Ben-Tzvi, O., A. Abelson, O. Polak and M. Kiflawi. 2008. Habitat selection and the colonization of new territories by Chromis viridis. J. Fish Biol., 73:1005-1018.


Ben-Tzvi, M. Kiflawi, O. Polak and A. Abelson. 2009. The effect of adult aggression on habitat selection by settlers of two coral-dwelling damselfishes. PLoS One 4:e5511(1-8).


Siboni, N., S. Martinez, A. Abelson, A. Sivan and A. Kushmaro. 2009. Conditioning film and initial biofilm formation on electrochemical CaCO3 deposition on a metallic net in the marine environment. Biofoul. 25: 675–683


Bahartan, K., M. Zibdah, Y. Ahmed, A. Israel, I. Brickner and A. Abelson. 2010. Algal dominancy in coral reefs: A sign of reef degradation in the Eilat reefs (Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea). Mar. Poll. Bull. 60: 759-764


Goren, M., G. Lipsky, E. Brokovich and A. Abelson. 2010. A ‘flood’ of alien cardinal fishes in the eastern Mediterranean - first record of the Indo-Pacific Cheilodipterus novemstriatus in the Mediterranean Sea. Aquatic Invasions 5: S49-S51.


Ben-Tzvi, O., M. El-Zibdah, V. Bresler, Y. Jamal and A. Abelson. 2011. Coral reef monitoring: Examination of the reliability of coral community indices based on comparisons with cytological tests. J. Mar. Sci. art id 151268, doi:10.1155/2011/151268


Korzen, L.S., A. Israel and A. Abelson. 2011. Herbivory Effects on Turf Algae and Coral Recruits: Implications of Fish versus Sea-Urchin Grazing on Coral Reef Resilience. J. Mar. Sci. art id 960207, doi:10.1155/2011/960207.


Ben-Tzvi, O., Abelson, A., Gaines, S. D., Bernardi, G., Beldade, R., Sheehy, M. S., Paradis, G. L., and M. Kiflawi. 2012. Evidence for Cohesive Dispersal in the Sea.  PLoS ONE, 7(9), e42672. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0042672


Keshavmurthy, S., et al. (incl. A. Abelson). 2013. DNA barcoding reveals the coral “laboratory-rat”, Stylophora pistillata encompasses multiple identities. Scientific Reports 3:1–7. doi:10.1038/srep01520


Martinez, S. and A. Abelson. 2013. Coral recruitment: The critical role of early post-settlement survival.  ICES J. Mar. Sci. doi:10.1093/icesjms/fst035


Korzen, I.N. PulidindI, A. Israel, A. Abelson and A. Gedanken. 2015. Single step production of bioethanol from the seaweed Ulva rigida using sonication. RSC Advances, 5:16223-16229.


Korzen, L. Y. Peled, S. Zemah Shamir, M. Shechter, A. Gedanken, A. Abelson and A. Israel. 2015. An economic analysis of bioethanol production from the marine macroalga Ulva (Chlorophyta). Technology 3:114. DOI: 10.1142/S2339547815400105


Korzen, L., Pulidindi, I. N., Israel, A., Abelson, A., and Gedanken, A. 2015. Marine integrated culture of carbohydrate rich Ulva rigida for enhanced production of bioethanol. RSC Advances, 5:59251-59256.


Yeruham, E., G. Rilov, M. Shpigel and A. Abelson. 2015. Collapse of the echinoid Paracentrotus lividus populations in the Eastern Mediterranean - result of climate change? Scientific Reports 5: 13479. doi:  10.1038/srep13479


Korzen, L., A. Abelson and A. Israel. 2015. Growth, protein and carbohydrate contents in Ulva rigida and Gracilaria bursa-pastoris integrated with an offshore fish farm. Journal of Applied Phycology (accepted; online).


Abelson, A., Halpern, B.S., Reed, D.C., Orth, R.J., Kendrick, G.A., Beck, M.W., Belmaker, J., Krause, G., Edgar, G.J., Airoldi, L., Brokovich, E, France, R., Shashar, N., de Blaeij, A., Stambler, N., Salameh, P., Shechter, M. and Nelson, P.  2016. Upgrading Marine Ecosystem Restoration Using Ecological–Social Concepts. BioScience 66(2):156-163.


Obolski, U., L. Hadany and A. Abelson. 2016, Potential contribution of fish restocking to the recovery of deteriorated coral reefs: an alternative restoration method? PeerJ 4:e1732; DOI 10.7717/peerj.1732


Crane, N. L., M. J. Paddack, P. A. Nelson, A. Abelson, J. Rulmal, and G. Bernardi. 2016. "Corallimorph and Montipora Reefs in Ulithi Atoll, Micronesia: documenting unusual reefs." Journal of the Ocean Science Foundation 21: 10-17.


Abelson, A., P. Nelson, G. Edgar, N. Shashar, D. Reed, J. Belmaker, G. Krause, M. Beck, E. Brokovich, R. France, S. Gaines. 2016 Expanding marine protected areas to include degraded coral reefs. Conserv. Biol. 30 (6): 1182–1191


Abelson, A, U. Obolski, P. Regoniel, L. Hadany. 2016. Restocking of herbivorous fish populations as an ecological-social restoration tool in coral reefs. Frontiers Mar. Sci. 3, 138.


Crane, N., M. Paddack, P. Nelson, A. Abelson, K. Precoda6, J. Rulmal and G. Bernardi. 2017. Atoll-scale patterns in coral reef community structure: Human signatures on Ulithi Atoll, Micronesia. PLoS One, 12(5), p.e0177083.


Yanovsky, R., P. Nelson and A. Abelson. 2017. Structural complexity in coral reefs: evaluation tools and spatial scales. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution , 5, p.27.


Ashkenazi, D., A. Israel, A. Abelson. A novel two-stage seaweed IMTA (Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture), Reviews in Aquaculture (accepted).

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