- Urban land-use allocation in areas of transition (ecotones) is a complex task due to tensions between the need to develop residential and industrial areas and the wish to preserve high biodiversity and heterogeneous landscapes. This controversy is especially enhanced in a small and dense country like Israel, where efforts to achieve sustainable development are faced with difficulties typical of sensitive ecological regions and rapid population growth. This study incorporates the use of a multi-criteria mechanism in a GIS for the evaluation of the suitability of ecologically sensitive areas for four possible land-uses: nature reserves; forest plantations; residential areas; and industrial areas. The evaluation procedure pronounces the effect of: existing land-uses; soil characteristics; topographic attributes; vegetation cover; and landscape heterogeneity (as expressed by the Habitat Heterogeneity Model (HHM) that was developed within the frame of this study). The study area is the surroundings of a city that was established 30 years ago and is located in a transition zone between Mediterranean climate and the desert. The evaluation method used here provides a suitability layer for each of the four land-uses and a final layer that could recommend the most suitable land-use for each cell. The outcome of the system developed can be used as a basis for planners and decision makers dealing with the development of cities and their surroundings in regions of high ecological and environmental sensitivity.