Arid Dune Ecosystems - The Nizzana dunes in the Negev

Sand dunes occur in many parts of the world, not only in deserts and other arid regions but also along many coastlines in humid biomes and environments.  Nowadays, active dune systems are found mainly in the arid and semi-arid regions. The sand dunes of the north-western Negev are the eastern most part of the sand field covering the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula and the northwestern Negev. he climate is determined by a sharp gradient from semi-arid in north to the arid in the south. Average annual rainfall decreases from around 170 mm at the northern edge of the sand field near Yevul to approx. 90 mm near Nizzana.The southern most experimental site Nizzana  is characterized by vegetated linear dunes with mobile crests. The Nizzana Research Site is one of the long-term research sites operated by the Arid Ecosystem Research Centre (AERC) established in 1987 by the Minerva Foundation (Germany) and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The Nizzana Sands site offers an excellent example of the structure and functioning of a sandy desert ecosystem and the importance of biological topsoil crusts. Detailed interdisciplinary studies were conducted in the area at different temporal and spatial scales to understanding the ecosystem processes and pattern in in this arid ecosystem.

Arid dunes at the Nizzana research site, Negev, Israel

A synthesis of the research activities are published in the Ecological Studies Series by Springer in 2008. This volume provides a synthesis of a specific sand dune ecosystem, the Nizzana site in the Negev Desert. Describing its climate and geophysical/geochemical properties of soils, geological history, flora and fauna, and past/present land-use patterns, it elucidates ecological and geomorphological processes and their interrelations, based on long-term monitoring, in situ experiments and satellite imagery. Particular attention is drawn to the impact of the topsoil biological crust in controlling water availability at local/regional scales. The interdisciplinary approach adopted in this case study offers a good example of a highly complex and dynamic system, which could easily be applied to other sandy ecosystems.

  • Breckle, S.-W, Yair, A., Veste, M. (eds.) (2008) Arid Dune Ecosystems – The Nizzana Sands in the Negev Desert, Ecological Studies 200, Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York. 


Grant number: FKZ BEO 0339677, 01. April 1996 – 30. Sept.1999

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