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Edited by Annie Potts

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John Bellamy Foster and Paul Burkett

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John Bellamy Foster and Paul Burkett

Mor Nitzan, Sefi Mintzer and Hanah Margalit

The human microbiome is dynamic and unique to each individual, and its role is being increasingly recognized in healthy physiology and in disease, including gastrointestinal and neuropsychiatric disorders. Therefore, characterizing the human microbiome and the factors that shape its bacterial population, how they are related to host-specific attributes, and understanding the ways in which it can be manipulated and the phenotypic consequences of such manipulations are of great importance. Characterization of the microbiome so far has been mostly based on compositional studies alone, where relative abundances of different species are compared in different conditions, such as health and disease. However, inter-relationships among the bacterial species, such as competition and cooperation over metabolic resources, may be an important factor that affects the structure and function of the microbiome. Here we review the network-based approaches in answering such questions and explore the first attempts that focus on the interactions facet, complementing compositional studies, towards understanding the microbiome structure and its complex relationship with the human host.

Xin Dai, Lian-Yu Jiang, Ai-Qin Wang, Wan-Hong Wei and Sheng-Mei Yang

The species composition of testate amoebae was studied for the first time in the northern and central parts of Israel. One hundred and eight species and infra-species taxa of Testacea belonging to 18 genera and 10 families were identified in 68 samples. The materials were collected along a transect in the Mediterranean phyto-geographical region of Israel, from Mt. Hermon 2100 m above sea level (part of the Anti-Lebanon Mt. Ridge), to the Sea of Galilee 200 m below sea level to the Mediterranean sea shore near Tel Aviv. All the species identified are Holarctic, most of them cosmopolitan. Some of the sampled testaceans require additional taxonomic studies and are possibly new species endemic to the country. A low α-diversity index was demonstrated for the specimens collected in the humid and swampy habitats, while the majority of the species assemblages, mainly eury-bionts, were similar among habitats.

Gilad Weil and Noam Levin

Over the years, Israel's centralized national planning framework and the intense competition on the limited available land played a crucial factor in designing the spatial distribution of the protected areas in Israel. When examining the spatial properties of the protected areas, it was found that they do not adequately represent the variety of the ecosystems in Israel. According to the systematic conservation planning approach, we aimed to examine how optimization algorithms (e.g., MARXAN) would inform us on high priority areas for conservation. We created proxies for anthropogenic disturbance, and for the susceptibility of designating new protected areas subject to existing national and regional land use master plans. Our conservation targets were defined on the basis of the spatial distribution of 461 endangered vertebrate and plant species (red species), as well as by defining and mapping 21 main ecosystems. The results highlight the limited options of significantly improving the representativeness provided by the existing protected areas, due to the diminishing availability of open areas, which may be available to be designated as protected areas. However, the results also emphasize the conservation potential of agricultural land, as well as the need for preserving small and fragmented rare habitats.

Gili Greenbaum, Oren Hoffman, Omri Shalev and Yuval R. Zelnik