How is shrub cover related to soil moisture and patch geometry in the fragmented landscape of the northern Negev desert? Academic Article uri icon


  • Among the major challenges of landscape ecologists is to develop relatively simple models to quantify ecological processes over large areas. Application of such models can be well demonstrated in fragmented semi-arid ecosystems where competition over resources is intense due to habitat loss, however, only a few studies have done so. Our aim was to model and study the integrated effect of spatial variation in potential soil moisture and patch size and shape on shrub–grass ratio (SGR) in a semi-arid fragmented environment. We specifically ask: (i) what factors most strongly relate to SGR in large remnant patches (> 1.6 ha), and (ii) do different factors more strongly relate to SGR in small patches (< 1.6 ha)? The study was carried out using 60 patches within a semi-arid fragmented environment in the Northern Negev of Israel. Aerial photographs and digital elevation models were used to map six environmental variables: wetness index, aspect, rock cover, rock pattern, patch area, and patch shape. The variables were designed in GIS and were modeled using fuzzy logic procedures to predict SGR, and these predictions were compared to shrub cover maps extracted using maximum likelihood classification of aerial photographs taken in September 2003. We found that in the study area, factors indicating potential soil moisture are most strongly related to SGR in large patches, whereas patch geometric attributes are more strongly relate to SGR in small patches.

publication date

  • January 1, 2007