Savannization: Linking Ecological Understanding and Applicants

Project Number: 
Project Duration: 
43 Months
May 1, 1997 to December 14, 2000
Institution of Principle Investigator while on this project: 
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Investigators (most current known information)

Professor, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Mitrani Center for Desert Ecology, Institute for Desert Research, Sede Boqer 84990, ISRAEL
TEL: +972-8-659-6786, FAX: +972-8-659-6772, Email:
Senior Lecturer, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Sde Boker Campus, The Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research, Midreshet Ben-Gurion 84990, ISRAEL
TEL: +972-52-384-7603, FAX: +972-8-659-6757, Email:
Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Sede Boqer Campus 84990, ISRAEL
Soil Conservationist, Deputy Director Southern Region, Forestry, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (JNF), KKL. GILAT DOAR NA, Hanegev 85410, ISRAEL
TEL: +972-8-998-6102, FAX: +972-8-998-6120, Email:

Proposal Abstract

The search for ecosystem management methods in desertified ecosystems, is an issue that engrosses researchers and managers of drylands. Understanding processes limiting production and diversity in these landscapes is essential for management in desertified landscapes. We developed a demonstration program on ecosystem management of desertified areas. The program is based on the assumption that the productivity and diversity, of the Negev shrubland, is not limited by lack of resources, but by their availability to organisms.

Our aim is to demonstrate that part of the existing water and nutrient resources are not used by biotic elements, because they leak from the ecosystem before they are used by vegetation, animals or humans. This assumption is based on long term studies of the structure of dry shrubland ecosystems made up of crusted and shrub patches .

The purpose of the demonstration project is to teach the principles of savannization, i.e., ecosystem management aimed at increasing productivity and diversity by runoff harvesting. The focus is to show how ecological understanding may help in ecological management. The management principles are based on the JNF management practices in the area.

The four years of the demonstration project were devoted to development of teaching methods in Sayeret Shaked Park in the northern Negev. In the project we teach ecological and management principles, in four stages. The first stage emphasizes spatial heterogeneity. The second explains the interactions among spatial heterogeneity, resource flows and biological productivity and diversity. In the third, we demonstrate how various human made activities influence the spatial heterogeneity, resource flows and biological productivity and diversity. In the fourth stage we show how it may be possible to restore disturbed ecological systems, in arid areas, by adding human made patches.

The program is based on four main activities regarding: 1) Landscape unit and runoff; 2) Sayeret Shaked as a complex ecological system; 3) Constructing a conceptual model of Sayeret Shaked; and 4) Ecosystem management in Sayeret Shaked.

In the demonstration project we examined our teaching program on the following populations: JNF staff, Ben Gurion University students from the biology and geography departments, Hebrew University students from the overseas program, students from Kaye Teacher's College, scientists attending the International Workshop on Biodiversity in Drylands, high school students and teachers attending the International Caretakers of the Environment Conference and Maale Habsor High School students.

Our evaluation indicates that after the activities at Sayeret Shaked, the participants were capable of answering about 30 questions pertaining to: 1) patch formation, structure and function; 2) natural and human made patchiness and plant productivity and diversity; 3) human disturbances such as, herbicide spraying, livestock grazing, trampling and clipping, and their effects on water and soil leakage and plant productivity and diversity; and 4) management treatments that change patchiness and their effects on ecosystem processes.

Evaluation of the program led us to the conclusion that participants do absorb the major themes. We found that the demonstration program enabled the participants to develop a conceptual model of Sayeret Shaked Park. All the participants indicated that the program enhanced their understanding of a dry shrubland ecosystem in general and of Sayeret Shaked, in particular.


Please see project 01R-15 for a complete list of outcomes for this and related projects.



Support for this project came from the USDA Forest Service and USDA Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service