Structural changes of desertified and managed shrubland landscapes in response to drought: Spectral, spatial and temporal analyses

Tarin Paz-Kagan, Natalya Panov, Moshe Shachak, Eli Zaady, Arnon Karnieli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Drought events cause changes in ecosystem function and structure by reducing the shrub abundance and expanding the biological soil crusts (biocrusts). This change increases the leakage of nutrient resources and water into the river streams in semi-arid areas. A common management solution for decreasing this loss of resources is to create a runoff-harvesting system (RHS). The objective of the current research is to apply geo-information techniques, including remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS), on the watershed scale, to monitor and analyze the spatial and temporal changes in response to drought of two source-sink systems, the natural shrubland and the human-made RHSs in the semi-arid area of the northern Negev Desert, Israel. This was done by evaluating the changes in soil, vegetation and landscape cover. The spatial changes were evaluated by three spectral indices: Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), Crust Index (CI) and landscape classification change between 2003 and 2010. In addition, we examined the effects of environmental factors on NDVI, CI and their clustering after successive drought years. The results show that vegetation cover indicates a negative ΔNDVI change due to a reduction in the abundance of woody vegetation. On the other hand, the soil cover change data indicate a positive ΔCI change due to the expansion of the biocrusts. These two trends are evidence for degradation processes in terms of resource conservation and bio-production. A considerable part of the changed area (39%) represents transitions between redistribution processes of resources, such as water, sediments, nutrients and seeds, on the watershed scale. In the pre-drought period, resource redistribution mainly occurred on the slope scale, while in the post-drought period, resource redistribution occurred on the whole watershed scale. However, the RHS management is effective in reducing leakage, since these systems are located on the slopes where the magnitude of runoff pulses is low.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8134-8164
Number of pages31
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Crust index
  • Landscape cover
  • Normalized difference vegetation index
  • Remote sensing
  • Runoff-harvesting system
  • Source-sink systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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