LTER site established in 1993

Site manager:  Elli Groner

Contact: elli@adssc.org

Operating Organization: DSASC

General Site Description:

The site is located at the wet edge of the hyper-arid desert on the border of the arid area. The Ramon crater is in the shape of an elongated heart with a maximum length of 40 km and a maximum width of 9 km. It has a huge geodiversity and is an attraction to geologist from all around the world wishing to study different geological periods without the need to dig. As all hyper-arid ecosystems, vegetation is only in the river-beds, which are dry most year. All the slopes and hilltops are bare from vascular plants and only have micro-organisms including cyanobacteria. Annual rain fall is 55mm which is very unpredictable, and varies a lot between years. Rain can fall between October to May, but with climate change, the timing of the first rain becomes delayed and the rainy season shortens. There are acacia trees in some watersheds and most of the area is dominated by C4 shrubs. The fauna is dominated by detritivores, mostly darkling beetles. Mammals include gazelles, ibex, wild ass, foxes, hyana, jackals, wolves and caracals.

Purpose of Site:

It serves as a model to understand structure, function and services of a hyper-arid ecosystem and its comparison to arid systems using eco-hydrology. The main research is the interaction between hydrology and ecology as the main driver of the system. It studies hydrological niches as a driver of water use efficiency. It monitors runoff, floods, and soil moisture as what shapes the biodiversity and functions of the watershed. We currently use stream orders as the main heterogeneity component and link it to geodiversity, connectivity, catchment area and source-sink dynamics. It also deals with biodiversity at all trophic levels and the hyper-arid food web. It also characterizes the differences between arid and hyper-arid ecosystems.


History of site:

The site was established by the DSASC (in its old name as Ramon Science Center) in the 90s. Uriel Safriel (Hebrew University), Yoram Ayal, David Saltz and David Ward (Ben Gurion University) established the site as part of the research station at Mitzpe Ramon. Boris Krasnov and Yura (Georgy) Shenbrot were the first site managers. They mapped the whole crater and studied how communities differed in the different landscape units based on geology and climate. They performed many surveys of plants and animals. They monitored rodents since 1993 in different landscape units.

Since 2012 the site is managed by Elli Groner and the work focuses on the eastern part of the crater, first in the Ramon River and later in Gvanim River. Since 2020 a meteorological station was established in Gvanim and hydrology monitoring started headed by Avsahlom Babad. It is also the only site in israel that is part of the global project of “Lifeplan”. It also participated in various of national LTER programmes and the teabag decomposition project.

Monitored parameters:

air temperature, rain, floods, pressure, potential evaporation, RH, soil moisture, plants (shrubs), Acacia trees, ground dwelling arthropods, soil mesofauna, large mammals


  • Ward, D; Olsvigwhittaker, L; Lawes, M, 1993, Vegetation-Environment Relationships In A Negev Desert Erosion Cirque, Journal Of Vegetation Science, 4(1), 83-94
  • Khokhlova, Is; Krasnov, Br; Shenbrot, Gi; Degen, A, 1994, Factors Determining The Pattern Of Seasonal-Changes Of Body-Weight In Some Rodents In The Erosive Crater Ramon (Upland Negev, Israel), Zoologichesky Zhurnal, 73(11), 106-114
  • Krasnov, B , Shenbrot, G 1996 Spatial structure of community of darkling beetles (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae) in the Negev Highlands, Israel ECOGRAPHY 19 (2) 139-152
  • Krasnov, B , Shenbrot, G,    Khokhlova, I,    Ivanitskaya, E,  1996 Spatial patterns of rodent communities in the Ramon erosion cirque,    Negev Highlands, Israel JOURNAL OF ARID ENVIRONMENTS 32 (3) 319-327
  • Krasnov, B, Ward, D,    Shenbrot, G 1996 Body size and leg length variation in several species of darkling    beetles (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae) along a rainfall and altitudinal gradient in the Negev Desert (Israel).  JOURNAL OF ARID ENVIRONMENTS 34 (4BP): 477-489
  • Shenbrot, G, Krasnov, B 1997 Habitat relationships of the lizard fauna in the Ramon erosion cirque, Negev Highlands (Israel) JOURNAL OF ZOOLOGY
  • Krasnov, BR Shenbrot, GI,    Medvedev, SG,   Vatschenok, VS, Khokhlova, IS, 1997 Host-habitat relations as an important determinant of spatial    distribution of flea assemblages (Siphonaptera) on rodents in the Negev PARASITOLOGY
  • Shenbrot, G, Krasnov, B 1997 Habitat relationships of the lizard fauna in the Ramon erosion cirque,Negev Highlands (Israel) JOURNAL OF ZOOLOGY
  • Saltz, D; Schmidt, H; Rowen, M; Karnieli, A; Ward, D; Schmidt, I, 1999, Assessing grazing impacts by remote sensing in hyper-arid environments, JOURNAL OF RANGE MANAGEMENT, 52(5), 500-507
  • Ward, D; Saltz, D; Rowen, M; Schmidt, I, 1999, Effects of grazing by re-introduced Equus hemionus on the vegetation in a Negev desert erosion cirque, JOURNAL OF VEGETATION SCIENCE, 10(4), 579-586
  • Saltz, D; Rowen, M; Rubenstein, DI, 2000, The effect of space-use patterns of reintroduced Asiatic wild ass on effective population size, CONSERVATION BIOLOGY, 14(6), 1852-1861
  • Ward, D; Saltz, D; Olsvig-Whittaker, L, 2000, Distinguishing signal from noise: Long-term studies of vegetation in Makhtesh Ramon erosion cirque, Negev desert, Israel, PLANT ECOLOGY, 150(1-2), 27-36
  • Schmidt, H; Karnieli, A, 2001, Sensitivity of vegetation indices to substrate brightness in hyper-arid environment: the Makhtesh Ramon Crater (Israel) case study, INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF REMOTE SENSING, 22(17), 3503-3520
  • Shukurov, N; Pen-Mouratov, S; Genzer, N; Plakht, J; Steinberger, Y, 2005, Distribution of soil microbial biomass and free-living nematode population in terrace chronosequences of Makhtesh-Ramon crater, ARID LAND RESEARCH AND MANAGEMENT, 19(3), 197-213
  • Ruiz, Natalia; Saltz, David; Ward, David, 2006, Signal selection in a desert lily, Pancratium sickenbergeri, EVOLUTIONARY ECOLOGY RESEARCH, 8(8), 1461-1474
  • Ruiz-R., Natalia; Ward, David; Saltz, David, 2006, Population differentiation and the effects of herbivory and sand compaction on the subterranean growth of a desert lily, JOURNAL OF HEREDITY, 97(4), 409-416
  • Ruiz, Natalia; Saltz, David; Ward, David, 2006, The effects of herbivory and resource variability on the production of a second inflorescence by the desert lily, Pancratium sickenbergeri, PLANT ECOLOGY, 186(1), 47-55
  • Saltz, David; Rubenstein, Daniel I.; White, Gary C., 2006, The impact of increased environmental stochasticity due to climate change on the dynamics of asiatic wild ass, CONSERVATION BIOLOGY, 20(5), 1402-1409
  • Henley, S. R.; Ward, D.; Schmidt, I., 2007, Habitat selection by two desert-adapted ungulates, JOURNAL OF ARID ENVIRONMENTS, 70(1), 39-48
  • Ruiz-R, Natalia; Ward, David; Saltz, David, 2008, Leaf compensatory growth as a tolerance strategy to resist herbivory in Pancratium sickenbergeri, PLANT ECOLOGY, 198(1), 19-26
  • Pen-Mouratov, S.; Genzer, N.; Shukurov, N.; Plakht, J.; Steinberger, Y., 2010, Seasonal Effect of Geomorphological Chronosequence Features on Soil Biota Dynamics, PEDOSPHERE, 20(6), 761-770
  • Krassilov, Valentin; Schrank, Eckart, 2011, New Albian macro- and palynoflora from the Negev (Israel) with description of a new gymnosperm morphotaxon, CRETACEOUS RESEARCH, 32(1), 13-29
  • Finzi Y, Avni S, Maroz S, Avriel-Avni N, Ashckenazi-Polivoda, S and Ryvkin, I2019 Extraordinary Geodiversity and Geoheritage Value of Erosional Craters of the Negev Craterland Geoheritage 11(3) 875-896
  • Landau, Serge Yan; Dvash, Levana; Ryan, Philippa; Saltz, David; Deutch, Tova; Rosen, Steven A., 2020, Faecal pellets, rock shelters, and seasonality: The chemistry of stabling in the Negev of Israel in late prehistory, JOURNAL OF ARID ENVIRONMENTS, 181(), –
  • Yair, Yael; Reshef, Leah; Shopen-Gochev, Camelia; Yoffe, Gal; Azulay, Gil; Aharonson, Oded; Sorek-Abramovich, Reut, 2021, Temporal and Spatial Analysis of Forward and Backward Microbial Contamination in a Mars Analog Mission, FRONTIERS IN ASTRONOMY AND SPACE SCIENCES, 8
  • Landau, Serge Yan; Dvash, Levana; Ryan, Philippa; Saltz, David; Deutch, Tova; Rosen, Steven A., 2020, Faecal pellets, rock shelters, and seasonality: The chemistry of stabling in the Negev of Israel in late prehistory, JOURNAL OF ARID ENVIRONMENTS, 181(), –
  • Cohen S, Groner E, Peters A & Segoli M (2021) The impact of roads on the redistribution of plants and associated arthropods in a hyper-arid ecosystem. Journal of Insect Science, 21(4), pp 1-10