Long-Term Monitoring of Tree Population Dynamics in Desert Ecosystems: Integrating Field and Satellite Data

Sivan Isaacson, Jhonathan E. Ephrath, Shimon Rachmilevitch, Dan G. Blumberg, Benny Shalmon, Ofir Katz, Shimrit Maman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Arid environments are characterized by rare rain events that are highly variable, as a result of which plant populations often exhibit episodic recruitment and mortality dynamics. However, direct records and observations of such events are rare because of the slow development of woody species. In this study, we described how a decrease in annual precipitation affected acacia tree population dynamics in two hydrological regime types: small wadis and salt flats. This study combines 15 years of continuous, yearly field monitoring of individual acacia trees and data from a historical Corona satellite image, which has extended the time scope of the research. Results indicate that the annual mortality of acacia trees in small wadis reflects the cumulative effective rain events in the preceding five years, whereas the population on the salt flats was not affected by annual rainfall fluctuations. Moreover, in small wadis, rain events of less than 8 mm did not increase acacia tree survival rates. The mortality pattern and dynamics of each plot was unique, suggesting unsynchronized mortality and recruitment episodes on a regional scale. Mortality in all plots was documented both in “old” trees (i.e., recognized in 1968) and “new” trees (not recognized in 1968), but varied highly between plots. More than 50% of the dead trees recorded at the sites had died during the previous dry period (2000–2010). Combining field monitoring and historical satellite image data provided a unique database of acacia population dynamics. This record revealed the response of the acacia population to climate fluctuations and a period of episodic mortality.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1640
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2023


  • acacia
  • climate fluctuations
  • hyper arid
  • remote sensing
  • trees episodic mortality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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