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Environ Manage. 2014 Aug;54(2):309-19. doi: 10.1007/s00267-014-0286-y. Epub 2014 May 17.

The effects of long time conservation of heavily grazed shrubland: a case study in the Northern Negev, Israel.

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Judea Center for Research and Development, Carmel, Israel.


One of the major reasons for desertification is unrestricted grazing leading to vegetation depletion, soil erosion and degradation, phenomena often considered irreversible in the short term. Here, we compare soil and biological parameters of degraded and conserved, recently rehabilitated arid shrubland in the Northern Negev, Israel. The study area was restored by conservation efforts including a strictly controlled grazing regime initiated in 1992. The visually recognizable improvement in the ecology of the restored shrubland is reflected in significant improvement in all examined biotic (herbaceous biomass, shrub patch density, and insect activity), and soil parameters (nutrients, organic matter content, moisture, and water infiltration). The difference is created predominantly by restoration of large biological patches composed of shrubs and other perennial plants often associated with ant or termite nests, where the most significant increases in productivity and soil quality were observed. In the conserved shrubland such patches covered 35 or 25 % of the area (in a normal and a drought year, respectively). In the degraded shrubland 5 % or less of the area was occupied by such patches that were much smaller and of lower biological complexity. With respect to plant biodiversity, six plant species were found only-and 18 others became significantly more common-in the rehabilitated area. The results of this article indicate that functional arid drylands can be restored within <16 years relying on strict conservation management with reduced grazing intensity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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