Prof. Yakir investigates the interactions between the biosphere and atmosphere, focusing in particular on dry regions that receive less attention in global-scale research. This includes ways in which plants in these regions influence the global climate. By measuring tiny differences in the concentrations of isotopes in atmospheric carbon dioxide and water vapor, as well as the minute concentrations of other exotic trace gases in the atmosphere, he is able to “read” the chemical processes that occur in both plants and soil and assess the carbon storage in the land biosphere. His data reveal changes in gas exchange in response to climate change and environmental disturbances such as increases in air pollution, droughts, and heat waves, giving policy makers a more precise yardstick by which to measure the impact of human activity. His studies can also assist in enhancing carbon sequestration in forests, and in countering desertification trends in vulnerable regions.
In 2019, Prof. Yakir was awarded the Israel Prize in Geology, Earth Sciences and Atmospheric Sciences. He was awarded a visiting Professorship from Innsbruck University (2017) and received the Eminent Speakers Award from European Association of Geochemistry (2014), CIRES Senior Fellowship in Boulder, Colorado (2012), the Landau Prize for research in environmental sciences in 2006, and the KKL Margarita Ravelo Annual Award in 2004. He was elected a member and Vice Chair of the Board of the Israel Society of Ecological and Environmental Sciences (2010-2016), a member of the Board of the Inter-University Institute of Marine Sciences in Eilat (2009-2015), and a member of the Board of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies (2013-present). Prof. Yakir was a member of the subcommittee for Environmental Sciences, and currently of the subcommittee for Digital Israel of the Council for Higher Education. He is currently the associate editor of Biogeoscience.