A long-term spatiotemporal analysis of biocrusts across a diverse arid environment: The case of the Israeli-Egyptian sandfield

Klil Noy, Noa Ohana-Levi, Natalya Panov, Micha Silver, Arnon Karnieli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Spatiotemporal data can be analyzed using spatial, time-series, and machine learning algorithms to extract regional biocrust trends. Analyzing the spatial trends of biocrusts through time, using satellite imagery, may improve the quantification and understanding of their change drivers. The current work strives to develop a unique framework for analyzing spatiotemporal trends of the spectral Crust Index (CI), thus identifying the drivers of the biocrusts' spatial and temporal patterns. To fulfill this goal, CI maps, derived from 31 annual Landsat images, were analyzed by applying advanced statistical and machine learning algorithms. A comprehensive overview of biocrusts' spatiotemporal patterns was achieved using an integrative approach, including a long-term analysis, using the Mann-Kendall (MK) statistical test, and a short-term analysis, using a rolling MK with a window size of five years. Additionally, temporal clustering, using the partition around medoids (PAM) algorithm, was applied to model the spatial multi-annual dynamics of the CI. A Granger Causality test was then applied to quantify the relations between CI dynamics and precipitation. The findings show that 88.7% of pixels experienced a significant negative change, and only 0.5% experienced a significant positive change. A strong association was found in temporal trends among all clusters (0.67 ≤ r ≤ 0.8), signifying a regional effect due to precipitation levels (p < 0.05 for most clusters). The biocrust dynamics were also locally affected by anthropogenic factors (0.58 > CI > 0.64 and 0.64 > CI > 0.71 for strongly and weakly affected regions, respectively). A spatiotemporal analysis of a series of spaceborne images may improve conservation management by evaluating biocrust development in drylands. The suggested framework may also by applied to various disciplines related to quantifying spatial and temporal trends.

Original languageEnglish
Article number145154
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 20 Jun 2021


  • Crust Index
  • Landsat
  • Long-term trend
  • Remote sensing
  • Time-series clustering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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