Hillslope geodiversity improves the resistance of shrubs to prolonged droughts in semiarid ecosystems

Vladislav Dubinin, Ilan Stavi, Tal Svoray, Michael Dorman, Hezi Yizhaq

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Geodiversity effects on ecosystem productivity were investigated using remotely sensed data and a mathematical model, by introducing a spatially non-uniform surface-water infiltration. Two hillslope types, with different geodiversity levels, as determined by the soil depth and stoniness, were selected for this study. Low-geodiversity hillslopes (‘homogenous hillslopes’) were identified by their dense herbaceous vegetation cover, and lack of rock fragments cover. High-geodiversity hillslopes (‘heterogeneous hillslopes’) are characterized by a more sparse cover of herbaceous vegetation, and relatively high rock fragment cover (>20%). Calculating Soil Water Index (SWI) from Landsat-5 TM, Landsat-7 ETM+ (SLC-ON) and Landsat-8 satellite images for the years 1994–2017 shows that during most of these years, SWI was higher at the heterogeneous hillslopes. This was particularly prominent after 2009 when mass mortality of shrubs took place on the homogenous hillslopes but not in the heterogeneous ones. Numerical simulations show that after a prolonged drought, the vegetation in the homogenous system dried out, and the system did not recover even after the yearly rainfall amounts returned to normal. In the heterogeneous system, the vegetation patches survived the drought episode and then recovered. This demonstrates the crucial role played by hillslope geodiversity in determining the durability of vegetation under prolonged droughts in semiarid regions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104462
JournalJournal of Arid Environments
Volume188
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 May 2021

Keywords

  • Infiltration feedback
  • LST
  • NDVI
  • SWI
  • Stoniness
  • Vegetation patterns

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Earth-Surface Processes

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