1.1 Geographical features
Two research stations The Negev Highlands LTSER platform covers an area of approximately 4,500 square kilometers
The main geomorphologic structure in the area is a series of ridges 400-1000 m above sea level. In four of which developed unique geological structures, an erosive crater named: Makhthesh. This is an arid to hyper-arid region with average precipitation of 100-20 mm/y, rich with unique natural landscapes and a habitat for various species of flora and fauna which are adjusted to arid zones and highlands, some of whom are endemic to the area.
Fig. 2 The area of the platform is extending over the area of the Negev Highlands and it overlaps the area designated for the establishment of the Makhtheshim Country Geopark (The Craters Land). The red line marks the boundaries of the platform. Green points indicate the sites of the LTER stations
1.2 Social characteristics
In spite of its arid environment, the Negev Highlands (NH) have been used throughout history by different people for various purposes. Being a pivotal area along the ancient trade routes, the Negev Highlands are rich with remnants of settlement and agricultural activity (Haiman, 1993).
Today the region is a home for approximately 17,500 residents (about 8% are Bedouins and the rest are Jews) who live in a variety forms of settlement: towns, agricultural communities and Bedouin tribal villages. In addition, there are some army bases in the area.
Most of the NH platform lies within the jurisdiction of the Ramat Negev Regional Council, the eastern margins are within the jurisdiction of the Arava-Tichona Regional Council and the southern margins are within the jurisdiction of the Hevel-Eilot Regional Council.
1.3 LTER stations
Two LTER stations are located within the NH platform. Avdat Station (A in Figure 1), which represents the arid region and the Ramon Crater Station (R in Figure 1), which represents a hyper-arid region.
Geopark is a UNESCO category that relates to an international park, which includes uniqueness landscapes and natural phenomena. In accordance with the UNESCO approach, Geopark is designed to create economic opportunities for the residents of the region, to strengthen their place attachments and thereby, make them partners in maintaining local natural values and the balance between conservation and development. Four organizations are now promoting the declaration of the region as a Geopark: The Dead Sea and Arava Science Center, the Israel Geological Survey, the Mitzpe Ramon Regional Council and the Nature Protection Authority. The NH LTSER platform teamed up with the Geopark administration to become the research brunch of this educational-tourism initiative.
1.5 LTSER Management
1.5.1 Steering committee -The NH LTSER platform is works under the auspices of the Dead Sea and Arava Science Center (DSASC). This organization is a network of multidisciplinary research stations that works under the academic auspices of Ben Gurion University and the Science Ministry. The steering committee of the network consists of the heads of the regional councils, other main stakeholders and representatives of the Ben Gurion university. The DSASC Steering Committee meets twice a year to decide on research and development goals in the region. Two research stations of DSASC are operated in the LTSER platform: Ramon, in its central part, and Hatzeva in the eastern part. Both of them are committed to research and development in the area and to cooperation with residents and relevant stakeholders.
1.5.2 The LTSER team
The head of the NH LTSER is Dr. Noa Avriel-Avni, social-ecology and environmental education researcher, from the Ramon research station of the DSACS.
Leading team includes Dr. Elli Groner, Ecology and Dr. Avshalom Babad, Hydrology.
The scientific board of NH LTSER is the Israeli LTER committee, together with social researcher from the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, Ben Gurion University.
The conceptual framework of the NH LTSER platform is a Socio-Ecological collaboration of scientists and stakeholders in research and long-term monitoring. This is in order to mitigate social-ecological problems in the region and to develop sustainable social-ecological projects (PBR: Problem/Projects-Bested- Research). Another theme is using transdisciplinary action-research toward sustainable management of the area. The NH LTSER platform’s objectives are to:
The two main projects currently under way at LTSER are:
In addition, a joint research proposal was submitted to ENI with three LTSER platforms in Israel, Palestine and Crete. Which we hope to receive a positive answer for.
Avriel-Avni, N., Holzer, J. M., Shachak, M., Orenstein, D. E., Groner, E. E., 2017. Using Transdisciplinary Action Research Toward Sustainable Management of Vineyard Management and Tourism in the Negev Highlands. In: Tomé Mapotse (Ed.): Cross-Disciplinary Approaches to Action Research and Action Learning, 215-226.
Avriel Avni, N., Avni, Y., Babad A., Meroz, A., 2018. Wisdom dwells in places: what can modern farmers learn from ancient agricultural systems? Journal of Arid Environment (special issue, accepted for publication).
Dick, J., Orenstein, D. E., Holzer, J. M., Wohner, C., Achard, A. L., Andrews, C.,.. .Avriel-avni, N… & Chen, C., 2018. What is socio-ecological research delivering? A literature survey across 25 international LTSER platforms. Science of The Total Environment, 622, 1225-1240.
* Several papers are now in different writing or review stages.