The effects of heavy winter rains and rare summer rains on biological soil crusts in the Negev Desert

Giora J. Kidron, Sophia Barinova, Ahuva Vonshak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Biological soil crusts (BSCs) abound in the Hallamish dune field in the western Negev Desert, Israel. While their abundance may imply high adaptability to environmental change, such as fluctuations between wet and dry conditions following winter rains, summer rains, although rare, may also occur in the Hallamish dune field. The aim of the present paper is to examine crust responses to winter and summer rains, focusing particularly on its biomass components, chlorophyll and carbohydrate. In addition, species composition, during summer and winter was examined. Analysis took place during an exceptionally wet winter (1994/95 with 172. mm) and a summer rainstorm (12.5.93 with 9.7. mm). The data showed a 2-3 fold increase in chlorophyll a and total carbohydrates and a much richer species composition following the heavy winter rains of 1994/95. Yet, the data also showed ~. 15-30% decrease in the chlorophyll content of the crust (with no concomitant significant decrease in total carbohydrates) following the summer rainstorm. Intense weathering by the summer rain coupled with cell mortality may explain the decrease in the chlorophyll content following the summer rainstorm, suggesting possible changes in the BSC following a potential change in the precipitation regime due to global climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-11
Number of pages6
StatePublished - Aug 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The work was supported by grant # 00R-009 of the International Arid Land Consortium (IALC) . We thank A, Starinsky and C.A. Monger for their help in acquiring the funds and C.A. Kidron for the editing. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their most helpful comments.


  • Biocrust
  • Carbohydrates
  • Chlorophyll
  • Microbiotic crust
  • Sand dune
  • Species composition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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