No’am Seligman was a founding father of range management and range science in Israel. He received his education, including a BSc in agriculture and an MSc in grassland ecology, in South Africa, his country of birth. He immigrated to Israel just a few years after the establishment of the modern state, and in his early career there he directed a national rangeland survey, the results of which were published as a book1 which became the definitive evaluation to this day. He conducted a major range survey of the Golan Heights and received his PhD from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on the phytosociology of its vegetation.
In 1969 he joined the Agricultural Research Organization of Israel as a research scientist, and served as head of department for most of his tenure. In the 1970s he spearheaded the use of systems analysis as a research tool. Over the course of his career, he developed simulation models of the growth of pasture and wheat, sheep-based agropastoral systems and beef cattle production. He played a leading role in a multi-year project with Dutch researchers that studied crop growth in dry regions, combining field experimentation and modeling. Together with his colleague and friend Herman van Keulen (Wageningen), he published a wheat simulation model as a book2. In a fruitful collaboration with C.T. de Wit (Wageningen) and others, he developed a model that generated numerous configurations of agropastoral systems and incorporated the results into a multi-period linear programming analysis. This was published in a book he jointly edited3 that brought together the findings of the long-term studies that were conducted with the Dutch team. He was recognized as a leading authority on Mediterranean rangelands and in 1996 contributed a book chapter on their management4. He established three rangeland research stations that remain active to this day. He brought into the department a group of younger researchers to whom he was a cherished mentor. In 1989 he revived the Israel Association of Rangeland Science; its upcoming 24th meeting will be dedicated to his memory.
Noam’s scientific knowledge was encyclopedic – a useful asset in such a multidisciplinary field. He could converse intelligently about subjects as diverse as the oxygen pulse of a cow’s heart, stomatal control in plants, nitrogen transformations in the soil and the autecology of Hordeum bulbosum. Over the period 1964 to date, he published more than 75 peer-reviewed papers in almost 40 different international journals (including 13 in JRM/REM) and numerous articles in local publications in Hebrew. He collaborated closely (and coauthored 15 papers) with Imanuel Noy-Meir, whom he held in the highest esteem, and was profoundly influenced by Noy-Meir’s simple yet insightful models of the dynamics of grazing systems. Notable publications included those with Tom Sinclair (UC Davis) on the discipline of crop modeling5, 6 and with Avi Perevolotsky (ARO) on the concept of overgrazing in Mediterranean rangeland ecosystems 7. His books and papers garnered over 3000 citations (Google Scholar). No’am retired in 1994 but continued to guide rangeland research and teach a university course on rangeland systems. In the last years of his life he led the writing of a new book on rangeland management8 in collaboration with the no-longer-young group of researchers he had nurtured.
No’am was kindhearted, liked by all, and a respected sage and mentor to many in his wide sphere of influence. He had a thirst for knowledge that was driven by a deep sense of awe at nature and its mystery, its elegance and its complexity, its order and its chaos. He was cultured, well-read, modest and, above all, a thinking man. He is survived by his wife Ilana, daughters, brothers and grandchildren.
1 Seligman, N., Rosensaft, Z., Tadmor, N.H., Katznelson, Y., Naveh, Z. (1959) Natural Rangeland of Israel (Range Survey, Range Plants, Range Management). Sifriat Hapoalim, 378 pp. (Hebrew with English summary).
2 van Keulen, H., Seligman, N.G. (1987) Simulation of water use, nitrogen nutrition and growth of a spring wheat crop. Simulation Monographs, Wageningen, the Netherlands, PUDOC.
3 Alberda, Th., van Keulen, H., Seligman, N.G., de Wit, C.T. (1992) Food from Dry Lands: An Integrated Approach to Planning of Agricultural Development. Kluwer Academic Publishers, the Netherlands. 211 pp.
4 Seligman, N.G. (1996) Management of Mediterranean Grasslands. in: The Ecology and Management of Grazing Systems. (J. Hodgson and A.W. Illius, editors), pp. 359–391. CAB International, Wallingford, UK.
5 Sinclair, T. R., Seligman, N.G. (1996) Crop Modeling: From Infancy to Maturity. Agronomy Journal 88:698-704.
6 Sinclair, T.R., Seligman, N.G. (2000) Criteria for publishing papers on crop modeling. Field Crops Research 68:165–172.
7 Perevolotsky, A., Seligman, N.G. (1998) Role of grazing in Mediterranean rangeland ecosystems – Inversion of a paradigm. BioScience 48:1007-1017.
8 Seligman, N.G., Ungar, E.D., Henkin, Z., Landau, Y., Zaady, E., Perevolotsky, A. (2016) Range Management in Israel: A Synthesis of Vegetation, Animals and Man. Nekudat Chen, Jerusalem. 399 pp. [in Hebrew]