ISSN 1067-4136, Russian Journal of Ecology, 2007, Vol. 38, No. 6, pp. 388–397. © Pleiades Publishing, Ltd., 2007.
Original Russian Text © A.N. Babenko, N.K. Kiseleva, I. Plakht, S. Rosen, A.B. Savinetskii, B.F. Khasanov, 2007, published in Ekologiya, 2007, Vol. 38, No. 6, pp. 417–426.
The Middle East is one of the world’s most ancient
centers of animal domestication. The history of economic
development in this region is more than 10000 years
long. However, changes in the vegetation of this
region during the Holocene and the impact of live-
stock breeding on ancient ecosystems are as yet
poorly known. This is largely explained by the fact
that traditional objects of paleobotanical studies, such
as peat and lake deposits, rarely occur in arid regions.
However, many species of mammals and birds are
known to ﬁnd shelter in caves and niches, continu-
ously using them for hundreds or even thousands of
years, which results in long-term deposition of
organic material: feces, food remains, fragments of
chitin, hairs, feathers, etc. Such zoogenic deposits are
a promising source of information on the history of
arid ecosystems (Knyazev, 1979).
We studied ﬁve zoogenic deposits in the central part
of the Negev Desert, Israel (Rosen et al., 2005). One of
them, the Atzmaut deposit in the upper northern wall of
the Makhtesh Ramon erosional crater (Fig. 1), is con-
sidered in this paper. The main purposes of our research
were as follows: (1) to analyze speciﬁc features of
interpretation of palynological data on zoogenic depos-
its, (2) to reveal seasonality in the use of the rockshelter
by animals, (3) to reconstruct the dynamics of vegeta-
tion in the Negev Desert in the Late Holocene, and (4)
to estimate the impact of livestock grazing on vegeta-
The present-day climate of the Negev Desert is char-
acterized by hot summers and relatively cold winters.
Rain usually falls from October to May, with the annual
average amount of precipitation in the region of the
Atzmaut rockshelter being no more than 100 mm (Stern
et al., 1986). Vegetation in the central part of the desert
(Tamaricaceae) dominate on mountain slopes,
nopodiaceae) prevail in valleys (Danin,1983).
MATERIAL AND METHODS
The Atzmaut deposit is 108 cm deep and consists of
alternating ash, dung, and gravel horizons (Fig. 2). For
convenience in sampling, the zero level was taken to be
17 cm above its upper boundary. One-third of the
deposit proﬁle consists of the horizons of loose or con-
solidated gravel and ﬁne-grained sediments, either
without any apparent admixture of dung (125–123 and
67–51 cm) or with sparse dung inclusions (51–31 cm).
Ash horizons account for approximately 35% of the
proﬁle and include charcoal–ash layers (120–116, 102–
101, 95–79, and 29–20 cm) and layers of burned dung
with charcoal inclusions (123–120, 113–111, and 31–
29 cm). The rest of the proﬁle consists of compacted
dung layers (116–113, 111–102, 101–95, 79–67, and
20–17 cm) with inclusions of well-preserved domestic
sheep-goat and ibex (
) dung pellets. The
scheme of the proﬁle presented in this paper is more
detailed than that in our previous publication (Rosen
et al., 2005).
A total of 25 samples for laboratory analysis were
taken by layers over the whole proﬁle of the deposit.
Reconstruction of the Holocene Vegetation
in the Central Negev Desert, Israel, on the Basis
of Palynological Data on the Atzmaut Zoogenic Deposit
A. N. Babenko
, N. K. Kiseleva
, I. Plakht
, S. Rosen
, A. B. Savinetskii
, and B. F. Khasanov
Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Russian Academy of Sciences, Leninskii pr. 33, Moscow, Russia
Ben-Gurion University, Beersheba, 84105 Israel; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Received March 20, 2007
—Zoogenic deposits are among a few promising sources of information on the history of arid ecosys-
tems. To reconstruct the former vegetation of the Negev Desert, we performed palynological analysis of the
Atzmaut zoogenic deposit that had been formed over the past 6000 years. The results made it possible to reveal
seasonality in the use of this rockshelter, to reconstruct the dynamics of vegetation, and to estimate the effect
of climatic changes and livestock grazing on the vegetation in the central part of the Negev Desert.
: Israel, the Holocene, palynological analysis, zoogenic deposits.