Infiltration through three contrasting biological soil crusts in patterned landscapes in the Negev, Israel

D. J. Eldridge, Eli Zaady, Moshe Shachak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

196 Scopus citations

Abstract

We examined the role of soil crusts in infiltration processes in three contrasting environments in the Northern, Central, and Central-Western Negev, Israel. The removal of a thin cyanobacterial-dominant crust from a sandy dune at Nizzana in the Central-Western Negev and of a well-developed lichen-dominant and a cyanobacterial-dominant crust from a loess-covered hillslope at Sayeret Shaked in the Northern Negev resulted in three to fivefold increases in sorptivity and steady-state infiltration under both ponding and tension. The removal of a depositional crust colonised by cyanobacteria from a loess floodplain at Sede Zin in the Central Negev resulted in an increased infiltration under tension, but had no significant effect under ponding. We attribute the lack of effect under ponding to exposure of surface silts to water, which resulted in the clogging of matrix pores and surface sealing. The removal of the crusts in all three landscapes influences resource flows, particularly the redistribution of runoff water, which is essential for the maintenance of desert soil surface patterning. It would also have marked effects on germination, establishment and survival of vascular plants and soil biota, leading ultimately to desertification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-336
Number of pages14
JournalCatena
Volume40
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2000

Keywords

  • Desertification
  • Infiltration
  • Microbiotic crust
  • Microphytic crust
  • Negev Desert
  • Soil crusting
  • Soil patterning
  • Vegetation patchiness

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