LTER site /LTSER platform established at 2014

Site manager: Noa Avriel-Avni

Contact: Noa Avriel-Avni

Operating Organization:  Dead Sea & Arava Science Center


General Site Description:

The Negev Highlands LTSER platform is located in the southern Israel. The area consists of a series of ridges, 400-1000 m above sea level, covering an area of about 5000 sq. km. As part of the World Desert Belt, it is an arid to hyper-arid region, having a mean annual rainfall of 60-80 mm; about 200 nights of dew and mean annual temperature 18-19 C. The area is rich with geo-diversity and unique natural landscapes. One of the most prominent of these are the erosion craters (Makhteshim) that gave the area its second name: The Makhteshim Country.

The Har HaNegev Reserve (HNR) is a part of the Negev Highlands. HNR cover an area of about 1700 km2 that is colonized by 500 documented species of plants and an additional of 150 undocumented species are estimated to live in the area. Vegetation is mostly in a diffused spot pattern on the slopes and at higher cover in riverbeds.

The Negev Highlands region has been used throughout history by different people for various purposes. As a pivotal point along the ancient Mediterranean trade routes, the area is rich with remnants of settlement and agricultural activity. Terraces and runoff-water harvesting systems established in Byzantine times are still being used today by the local Bedouin tribes. Today, land-use in the Negev Highlands LTSER platform includes towns, agricultural settlements, Bedouin tribal villages and localities, tourism and military facilities, alongside nature reserves and military training zones.

Two LTER stations are operating in the Negev Highlands LTSER platform: Avdat LTER in the arid zone and Ramon LTER in the hyper-arid zone (in the Makhtesh Ramon). The platform operates under the auspices of the Dead Sea and Arava Science Center and is accompanied by a team of experts from diverse fields of knowledge, and from a number of different academic institutions.


Purpose of Site:

Establishing a multidisciplinary scientific and social knowledge base for sustainable development in the platform area.

Sub – goals

  • To use transdisciplinary approach in order to design sustainable solutions for social-ecological issues.
  • To deepen the understanding of the behavior of a desert social-ecological system, in the face of climate change.

History of site:

The establishment of the platform began in 2014, under the auspices of the Dead Sea & Arava Science Center.

In the first phase, a committee of experts was established, which includes researchers from various disciplines (geology, hydrology, microbiology, botany, zoology, ecology and social sciences). The committee members come from a variety of research institutions in Israel and meet regularly for transferring knowledge, identifying socio-ecological issues and discussing such issues. In addition, there is an effort to hold an annual seminar of the LTSER platform.

Since its inception, the platform has revolved primarily around socio-ecological issues in the region. For example:

  • Formulation of a method for cultivating land for growing vineyards and other crops within dry channels of desert streams, which are often subject to strong floods.
  • Options for combining desert tourism and nature conservation.
  • The possibility of preserving the tradition of Bedouin shepherds – especially in the context of camel grazing – along with preserving ecological diversity.
  • Ways to foster a sense of place and environmental values, among different communities in the area.

All these projects, are using a transdisciplinary approach and involve relevant stakeholders in the research and in the design of sustainable solutions.

Monitored parameters:

Two LTER stations (Avdat and Ramon) and another hydrological monitoring site – ecological and agricultural (Sfat Midbar), regularly monitor climate and ecology parameters in the platform area. Mapping of ecosystem services was carried out as part of a national project to assess the state of ecosystems in Israel.

In addition, we are working to formulate a method for long-term monitoring of the following parameters:

  • Sense of Place
  • Environmental values
  • Land use and land designation


Avdat LTER

  • Akuja, T., Godonu, K. G., Kraaij, T., Mwangi, M., Oguzoglu, I., & Zaady, E. (2002). Soil characteristics of crusted outside and subcanopy areas of four dominant shrubs in the Negev Desert. International Journal of Agriculture and Rural Development3(1), 162-170.‏
  • Ayal, Y., & Merkl, O. (1994). Spatial and temporal distribution of tenebrionid species (Coleoptera) in the Negev Highlands, Israel. Journal of Arid Environments27(4), 347-361.‏
  • Azatyan, A. (2013). Effect of heavy rainfall on desert soil bacterial community composition and dynamics (Doctoral dissertation, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev).
  • Bachar, A., Al-Ashhab, A., Soares, M. I. M., Sklarz, M. Y., Angel, R., Ungar, E. D., & Gillor, O. (2010). Soil microbial abundance and diversity along a low precipitation gradient. Microbial ecology60(2), 453-461.
  • Ben-David, E. A., Zaady, E., Sher, Y., & Nejidat, A. (2011). Assessment of the spatial distribution of soil microbial communities in patchy arid and semi-arid landscapes of the Negev Desert using combined PLFA and DGGE analyses. FEMS microbiology ecology76(3), 492-503.‏
  • Berg, N., & Steinberger, Y. (2008). Role of perennial plants in determining the activity of the microbial community in the Negev Desert ecosystem. Soil Biology and Biochemistry40(10), 2686-2695.‏
  • Berg, N., & Steinberger, Y. (2010). Are biological effects of desert shrubs more important than physical effects on soil microorganisms?. Microbial ecology,59(1), 121-129.‏
  • Berg, N., & Steinberger, Y. (2012). The role of perennial plants in preserving annual plant complexity in a desert ecosystem. Geoderma185, 6-11.‏
  • Berg, N., Unc, A., & Steinberger, Y. (2015). Examination of biotic and abiotic controls of soil bacterial diversity under perennial shrubs in xeric soils.CATENA127, 124-128.‏
  • Bilde, T., Lubin, Y., Smith, D., Schneider, J. M., & Maklakov, A. A. (2005). The transition to social inbred mating systems in spiders: role of inbreeding tolerance in a subsocial predecessor. Evolution59(1), 160-174.
  • Buis, E., & Veldkamp, A. (2008). Modelling dynamic water redistribution patterns in arid catchments in the Negev Desert of Israel. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms33(1), 107-122.
  • Buis, E., Veldkamp, A., Boeken, B., & Van Breemen, N. (2009). Controls on plant functional surface cover types along a precipitation gradient in the Negev Desert of Israel. Journal of Arid Environments73(1), 82-90.‏
  • Bunce, R. G. H., Bogers, M. M. B., Evans, D., Halada, L., Jongman, R. H. G., Mucher, C. A., … & Olsvig-Whittaker, L. (2013). The significance of habitats as indicators of biodiversity and their links to species. Ecological Indicators33, 19-25.
  • Dor‐Haim, S., Orenstein, D. E., & Shachak, M. (2019). Web of interactions among diversity approaches to identify ecosystem essential variables: Negev Highlands case study. Ecosphere10(11), e02906.
  • Ginzburg, O., Whitford, W. G., & Steinberger, Y. (2008). Effects of harvester ant (Messor spp.) activity on soil properties and microbial communities in a Negev Desert ecosystem. Biology and fertility of soils45(2), 165-173.‏
  • Goossens, D., & Offer, Z. I. (1990). A wind tunnel simulation and field verification of desert dust deposition (Avdat Experimental Station, Negev Desert). Sedimentology37(1), 7-22.
  • Grishkan, I., Zaady, E., & Nevo, E. (2006). Soil crust microfungi along a southward rainfall gradient in desert ecosystems. European Journal of Soil Biology42(1), 33-42.‏
  • Gutterman, Y. (1993). Environmental Factors During Seed Imbibition Affecting Germination. In Seed Germination in Desert Plants (pp. 169-206). Springer Berlin Heidelberg.
  • Gutterman, Y. (1993). Germination, the Survival of Seedlings and Competition. In Seed Germination in Desert Plants (pp. 207-223). Springer Berlin Heidelberg.‏
  • Gutterman, Y., & Ginott, S. (1994). Long-term protected’seed bank’in dry inflorescences of Asteriscus pygmaeus; achene dispersal mechanism and germination. Journal of Arid Environments26(2), 149-163.‏
  • Gutterman, Y., & Gozlan, S. (1998). Amounts of winter or summer rain triggering germination and ‘the point of no return’of seedling desiccation tolerance, of some Hordeum spontaneum local ecotypes in Israel. Plant and Soil204(2), 223-234.‏
  • Halldorf, S. (1994). Runoff water as a soil forming factor in arid zones.
  • Johannesen, J., & Lubin, Y. (1999). Group founding and breeding structure in the subsocial spider Stegodyphus lineatus (Eresidae). Heredity82(6), 677-686.
  • Kamai, T., Weisbrod, N., & Dragila, M. I. (2009). Impact of ambient temperature on evaporation from surface‐exposed fractures. Water resources research45(2).
  • Kappen, L., Lange, O. L., Schulze, E. D., Evenari, M., & Buschbom, U. (1972). Extreme water stress and photosynthetic activity of the desert plant Artemisia herba-alba Asso. Oecologia10(2), 177-182.‏
  • Kidron, G. J. (1999). Altitude dependent dew and fog in the Negev Desert, Israel. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology96(1), 1-8.‏
  • Kidron, G. J. (2005). Measurements of evaporation with a novel mini atmometer in the Negev. Weather60(9), 268-272.
  • Kidron, G. J. (2009). The effect of shrub canopy upon surface temperatures and evaporation in the Negev Desert. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms,34(1), 123-132.
  • Kidron, G. J., & Starinsky, A. (2012). Chemical composition of dew and rain in an extreme desert (Negev): Cobbles serve as sink for nutrients. Journal of Hydrology420, 284-291.
  • Kidron, G. J., Starinsky, A., & Yaalon, D. H. (2014). Cyanobacteria are confined to dewless habitats within a dew desert: Implications for past and future climate change for lithic microorganisms. Journal of Hydrology519, 3606-3614.
  • Kidron, G. J., Temina, M., & Starinsky, A. (2011). An investigation of the role of water (rain and dew) in controlling the growth form of lichens on cobbles in the Negev Desert. Geomicrobiology Journal28(4), 335-346.‏
  • Kidron, G. J., Yair, A., & Danin, A. (2000). Dew variability within a small arid drainage basin in the Negev Highlands, Israel. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society126(562), 63-80.‏
  • Lange, O. L., & Schulze, E. D. (1989). In memoriam Michael Evenari (formerly Walter Schwarz) 1904–1989. Oecologia81(4), 433-436.‏
  • Lövenstein, H. M., Berliner, P. R., & van Keulen, H. (1991). Runoff agroforestry in arid lands. Forest Ecology and Management45(1), 59-70.
  • Olsvig-Whittaker, L., Frankenberg, E., Magal, Y., Shkedy, Y., Amir, S., Walczak, M., … & Boeken, B. (2011). EBONE in Mediterranean and desert sites in Israel, with notes on South Africa. Alterra Report2260.
  • Olsvig-Whittaker, L., Walczak, M., Jobse, D., & Boeken, B. (2012). Patterns in Habitat Type, Species Richness and Community Composition at Avdat Lter, Israel. Journal of Landscape Ecology5(3), 5-23.‏
  • Pinker, R. T., & Karnieli, A. (1995). Characteristic spectral reflectance of a semi-arid environment. International Journal of Remote Sensing16(7), 1341-1363.‏
  • Schindler, s., & olsvig-whittaker, l. I. N. D. A. (2014). Conservation of mediterranean landscapes. Journal of Landscape Ecology7(1).
  • Schulze, E. D., Lange, O. L., Buschbom, U., Kappen, L., & Evenari, M. (1972). Stomatal responses to changes in humidity in plants growing in the desert.Planta108(3), 259-270.‏
  • Schulze, E. D., Lange, O. L., Kappen, L., Buschbom, U., & Evenari, M. (1973). Stomatal responses to changes in temperature at increasing water stress.Planta110(1), 29-42.‏
  • Shanan, L., & Schick, A. P. (1980). A hydrological model for the Negev Desert Highlands: effects of infiltration, runoff and ancient agriculture/Modèle hydrologique pour les régions montagneuses du Negev: les effets d’infiltration, d’écoulement et de l’agriculture ancienne. Hydrological Sciences Journal25(3), 269-282.‏
  • Shelef, O. (2008). How Landscape Diversity Affects Species Diversity: Shrub Effect on Beetle Diversity in Grazed Drylands (Doctoral dissertation, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev).
  • Shelef, O., & Groner, E. (2011). Linking landscape and species: Effect of shrubs on patch preference of beetles in arid and semi-arid ecosystems.Journal of Arid Environments75(10), 960-967.‏
  • Shem-Tov, S., Zaady, E., Groffman, P. M., & Gutterman, Y. (1999). Soil carbon content along a rainfall gradient and inhibition of germination: a potential mechanism for regulating distribution of Plantago coronopus. Soil Biology and Biochemistry31(9), 1209-1217.
  • Sher, Y., Zaady, E., & Nejidat, A. (2013). Spatial and temporal diversity and abundance of ammonia oxidizers in semi-arid and arid soils: indications for a differential seasonal effect on archaeal and bacterial ammonia oxidizers. FEMS microbiology ecology86(3), 544-556.
  • Steinberger, Y. (1991). Litter fall and nitrogen reabsorption in Zygophyllum dumosum in the Negev Desert. Israel Journal of Botany40(1), 33-39.‏
  • Steinberger, Y., & Whitford, W. G. (1988). Decomposition process in Negev ecosystems. Oecologia75(1), 61-66.‏
  • Steinberger, Y., Leschner, H., & Shmida, A. (1991). Chaff piles of harvester ant (Messor spp.) nests in a desert ecosystem. Insectes Sociaux38(3), 241-250.‏
  • Steinberger, Y., Leschner, H., & Shmida, A. (1992). Activity pattern of harvester ants (Messor spp.) in the Negev desert ecosystem. Journal of arid environments23, 169-176.
  • Temina, M., & Kidron, G. J. (2011). Lichens as biomarkers for dew amount and duration in the Negev Desert. Flora-Morphology, Distribution, Functional Ecology of Plants206(7), 646-652.‏
  • Ukabi, S., Whitford, W. G., & Steinberger, Y. (2009). Faunalpedturbation effects on soil microarthropods in the Negev Desert. Journal of arid environments,73(10), 907-911.‏
  • Yair, A. (1999). 14 Spatial Variability in the Runoff Generated in Small Arid Watersheds: Implications for Water Harvesting. Arid Lands Management: Toward Ecological Sustainability, 212.‏
  • Yu, J., Glazer, N., & Steinberger, Y. (2014). Carbon utilization, microbial biomass, and respiration in biological soil crusts in the Negev Desert. Biology and fertility of soils50(2), 285-293.‏
  • Zaady, E. Crust and dust.‏
  • Zaady, E., & Offer, Z. Y. (2010). Biogenic soil crusts and soil depth: a long‐term case study from the Central Negev desert highland. Sedimentology57(2), 351-358.‏ (20, 16, 3)
  • Zaady, E., Offer, Z. Y., & Shachak, M. (2001). The content and contributions of deposited aeolian organic matter in a dry land ecosystem of the Negev Desert, Israel. Atmospheric Environment35(4), 769-776.
  • Negev Highland (Makhteshim Country) LTSER
  • Avriel-Avni, Noa, Jen M. Holzer, Moshe Shachak, Daniel E. Orenstein, and Elli E. Groner. (2018). Using Transdisciplinary Action Research Toward Sustainable Management of Vineyard Management and Tourism in the Negev Highlands.” Pp. 215–26 in Cross-Disciplinary Approaches to Action Research and Action Learning. IGI Global.
  • Avriel-Avni, N., Avni, Y., Babad, A., & Meroz, A. (2019). Wisdom dwells in places: What can modern farmers learn from ancient agricultural systems in the desert of the Southern Levant?. Journal of Arid Environments, 163, 86-98.
  • Hummel, Christiaan, Dimitris Poursanidis, Daniel Orenstein, Michael Elliott, Mihai Cristian Adamescu, Constantin Cazacu, Guy Ziv, Nektarios Chrysoulakis, Jaap van der Meer, and Herman Hummel. (2019). “Protected Area Management: Fusion and Confusion with the Ecosystem Services Approach.” Science of the Total Environment 651:2432–43.
  • Orenstein, Daniel E. and Elli Groner. (2015). “Using the Ecosystem Services Framework in a Long-Term Socio-Ecological Research (LTSER) Platform: Lessons from the Wadi Araba Desert, Israel and Jordan.”
  • Orenstein, Daniel Eli, Idan Porat, and Miri Tzalyuk. (2018). “Green or Brown, Built or Open? Correlations between Landscape Preferences in an Arid Ecosystem, Underlying Environmental Values and Demographic Characteristics.” 5th European Congress of Conservation Biology.
  • Teff-Seker, Yael and Daniel E. Orenstein. (2019). “The ‘Desert Experience’: Evaluating the Cultural Ecosystem Services of Drylands through Walking and Focusing.” People and Nature  1(2):234–48.
  • Soil Erosion
  • Avni, Y. (2005). Gully incision as a key factor in desertification in an arid environment, the Negev highlands, Israel. Catena, 63(2-3), 185-220.
  • Avni, Y., Porat, N., Plakht, J., & Avni, G. (2006). Geomorphic changes leading to natural desertification versus anthropogenic land conservation in an arid environment, the Negev Highlands, Israel. Geomorphology, 82(3-4), 177-200.
  • Avni, Y., Porat, N., & Avni, G. (2012). Pre-farming environment and OSL chronology in the Negev Highlands, Israel. Journal of Arid Environments, 86, 12-27.
  • Ward, D., Feldman, K., & Avni, Y. (2001). The effects of loess erosion on soil nutrients, plant diversity and plant quality in Negev desert wadis. Journal of Arid Environments, 48(4), 461-473.
  • Remote sensing
  • Issar, A., Karnieli, A., Bruins, H.J. and Gilead, I. 1984. The quanternary geology of Sede-Zin, Negev, Israel. Israel Journal of Earth Science, 33, 34-42.
  • Bowman, D., Karnieli, A., Issar, A. and Bruins, H.J. 1986. Residual colluvio-aeolian aprons in the Negev Highlands (Israel) – as a paleo-climatic indicator. Palaeogeography, Paleaoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 56, 89-101.
  • Arkin, Y., Karnieli, A., Issar, A. and Diaz Mtz.-Esparza, J., 1986. Accelerated recession of desert cliffs due to sewage water disposal. Environmental Geology and Water Sciences, 8, 185-192.
  • Karnieli, A., Ben Asher, J., Dodi, A., Issar, A. and Oron, G. 1988. An empirical approach for predicting runoff yield under desert conditions. Agricultural Water Management, 14, 243-252.
  • Yair, A., Karnieli, A. and Issar, A. 1991.The chemical composition of precipitation and runoff water over an arid limestone hillside, Northern Negev, Israel. Journal of Hydrology, 129, 371-388.
  • Schmidt, H. and Karnieli, A. 2000. Remote sensing of the seasonal variability of vegetation in a semi-arid environment, Journal of Arid Environments, 45, 43-59.
  • Manspeizer, N., Karnieli, A., Arkin, Y. and Chorowicz, J. 2001. Analyzing Potential Cliff Erosivity from ERS-SAR Satellite Imagery.  International Journal of Remote Sensing, 22, 807-817. 
  • Schmidt, H. and Karnieli, A.  2002. Analysis of the temporal and spatial vegetation patterns in a semi-arid environment observed by NOAA/AVHRR imagery and spatial ground measurements.  International Journal of Remote Sensing, 23, 3971-3990.
  • Ohana-Levi, N., Paz-Kagan, T., Panov, N., Peeters, A., Tsoar, A. and Karnieli, A. 2019.  Time series analysis of vegetation-cover response to environmental factors and residential development in a dryland region.  GIScience & Remote Sensing. 56. 362-387. DOI 10.1080/15481603.2018.1519093.
  • Levi, N., Karnieli, A., Paz-Kagan, T. 2020.  Using reflectance spectroscopy for detecting land-use effects on soil quality in drylands. Soil & Tillage Research. 104571.