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Posted on on May 13th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (

The 6th International Conference on Deserts, Drylands & Desertification
November 6-9, 2017 Sede Boqer Campus, Israel

The central theme of the 2017 conference is “Combating desertification and dryland management-theory and practice” with particular emphasis on the natural sciences, but without neglecting planning and policy issues.

Early Bird Registration opens in May 2017.
More information on abstract submission guidelines will be published during May 2017
Abstracts should be submitted online by June 30th, 2017.

Prof. Pedro Berliner and Prof. Arnon Karnieli, Chairs of the Organizing Committee
Ms. Dorit Korine, Conference Coordinator and the Conference Team

The International Conference on Drylands, Deserts and Desertification (DDD) has emerged as an important global gathering of scientists, practitioners, industry and government representatives and decision-makers, members of CSOs, NGOs, and international development aid agencies and other stakeholders from over 60 countries concerned about land and environmental degradation in drylands and living conditions in and around them, as well as their sustainable use and development.

The program combines plenary lectures and panels, parallel sessions, workshops, field trips and social events. The four-day conference provides an opportunity for a diverse group of experts, policy makers and land managers to consider a range of theoretical and practical issues associated with combatting desertification and living sustainably in the drylands.

The 6th DDD conference will focus on Combating Desertification and Dryland Management—Theory and Practice. Additional sessions will be held considering a broad range of topics associated with sustainable living in the drylands and means to address desertification, as well as achieving the target of a zero net rate of land degradation.


The 6th International Conference on Deserts, Drylands & Desertification
November 6-9, 2017 Sede Boqer Campus, Israel

Following the success of the previous five international biennial conferences (2006-2014) on Drylands, Deserts, and Desertification, the organization of the 2017 DDD Conference is now underway and the conference is scheduled to take place at the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Sede Boqer Campus, from November 6-9, 2017.

In particular, sessions with the following themes are already confirmed to be held during the conference*:

• Afforestation in Drylands: Native And Non-Native Trees • Patterns and Processes in the Ecology of Drylands• Carbon Sequestration by Combating Desertification • Dating Drylands and Deserts • Plant Abiotic Stress Tolerance Mechanisms for Coping with Arid and Semi-Arid Environments • NGOs for Water: Activities in Rural Communities • On-site Waste Sanitation, Wastewater Treatment and Reuse • Remote Sensing Applications for Drylands• Soil and Land Restoration • Indigenous Dryland Techniques to Combat Desertification • Modeling and Measurement of Non-Rainfall Water Inputs • Self-Organized Vegetation Patchiness • Fairy Circles as a Self-Organization Phenomenon • Geodiversity in Drylands • Pattern Formation in the Geomorphology of Arid Regions • Pattern Formation in Wind Blown Sand • Soil-Plant-Atmosphere Interactions in Drylands • Root Quantification and Modelling • Efficient Use of Water in Dryland Agriculture • Multi-Source Land Imaging for Studying Desertification and Land Degradation • Viticulture in a changing climate • Urban Form of Dryland Cities – Mitigating Effects of Climate Change and Environmental Degradation • Land Degradation Neutrality • Landscape Restoration and Renewable Household Energy • Practice and Theory of Combating Desertification in Rural Areas • UNCCD Special Session •

* Some themes may be merged with others, or canceled, depending on the number of presentations

We look forward to seeing you in Israel in November 2017!


? International Advisory Committee
Name Organization
Castillo, Victor UNCCD
Chasek, Pamela International Institute for Sustainable Development, USA
Gnacadja, Luc UNCCD
Grainger, Alan University of Leeds, UK
Gutman, Garik NASA, USA
Lal, Rattan The Ohio State University, USA
Mathai, Wanjira The Greenbelt Movement, Kenya
Mutekanga, David Uganda National Academy of Sciences, Uganda
Santamouris, Mat University of Athens, Greece

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev > Drylands, Deserts and Desertification
Session Descriptions

1. Geodiversity in drylands: pedogenic and ecological implications

?Conveners: Golan Bel, Ilan Stavi and Shimon Rachmilevitch

Over the last decade, the importance of geodiversity has been recognized by soil scientists, geographers, hydrologists, ecologists, and others. Geodiversity—defined as the natural range of geologic, geomorphic, and pedogenic features—impacts biodiversity and affects a range of ecosystem functions and services. Geodiversity applies to a wide range of spatial scales, ranging from patch to landscape. Specific aspects related to geodiversity in drylands include those that determine water availability for different ecosystem components. The session will cover a range of inter-related topics, including the question of scale, hydrological modeling, ecological implications, anthropogenic impacts, and the establishment of indices for evaluating geodiversity.

2. Pattern formation in the geomorphology of arid regions

Conveners: Ido Regev, Roiy Sayag, Yosef Ashkenazy and Hezi Yizhaq

The geomorphology of arid regions is shaped by several physical processes that act at different spatial and temporal scales, such as erosion and sedimentation due to water flow, glacial movement and aeolian processes. These processes give rise to complex large-scale patterns such as sand and snow dunes, fractal river basins and glacial erosion patterns. This set of sessions will focus on the recent progress in understanding the physical mechanisms behind these processes and patterns, and on the current open questions in the field.

3. Pattern formation in windblown sand

Conveners: Ido Regev, Roiy Sayag, Yosef Ashkenazy and Hezi Yizhaq

The geomorphology of arid regions is shaped by several physical processes that act at different spatial and temporal scales, such as erosion and sedimentation due to water flow, glacial movement and aeolian processes. One of the most interesting erosive forces is the transport of sand and dust by wind which creates sand dunes and ripples, and loads the atmosphere with suspended dust aerosols. This session will focus on the recent progress obtained in understanding the physical mechanisms behind these processes and patterns, and on the current open questions in the field.

4. Vegetation patterns and processes in dryland regions in relation to land use and climate change (As part of Patterns and processes in the ecology of drylands)

Conveners: Yael Lubin, Michal Segoli and Hadas Hawlena

Climatic factors and, in particular, desertification, as well as changing land use, influence individual plant traits, demography and population dynamics, and consequently, the structure of communities and patterns of diversity. This session will focus on effects of desertification, grazing and other human interventions on the performance of desert plants and subsequent changes in vegetation diversity and composition.

5. Animal distribution, abundance and interactions in drylands and in response to desertification

(As part of Patterns and processes in the ecology of drylands)

Conveners: Yael Lubin, Michal Segoli and Hadas Hawlena

Harsh desert conditions may have important implications for interactions between organisms in both natural and human-impacted environments. Low water and nutrient availability may intensify the impact of exploitative interactions and promote specialized mutualistic adaptations. Low productivity also increases the severity of anthropogenic effects (e.g. settlements and agricultural fields) on the surrounding natural environment, with implications for animal movement, abundance and interactions. In this session, we will focus on the uniqueness of desert environments in shaping these effects.

6. The environmental change-biodiversity-disease triangle: host-parasite interactions in the era of global changes in land use, temperatures, and aridity, with implications for disease ri
(As part of Patterns and processes in the ecology of drylands)

Conveners: Yael Lubin, Michal Segoli and Hadas Hawlena

Global changes in land use, in the averages and variability of temperatures, and in desertification have dramatic direct and indirect impacts on host-parasite interactions, with implications for disease risk to wild animals and people. These changes affect parasite replication and the development, survival, and mobility of vectors, as well as the geographical distributions of vectors and hosts. Changes in temperature, humidity, and habitat structure also affect the network of biotic interactions and biodiversity, which in turn influence the dynamics and evolution of host-parasite interactions. We will focus on this cascade of changes and their implications for the emergence, spread, and virulence of infectious diseases.

7. Soil component of regional and global climate models
(as part of Soil-plant-atmosphere interactions in drylands)

Conveners: Naftali Lazarovitch and Golan Bel

Approximately 40% of the earth’s terrestrial surface comprises drylands, making a better understanding of the soil-plant-atmosphere interactions in these regions crucial for correct modeling of ecosystem and climate dynamics. In particular, soil models are crucial for capturing long-term memory effects in climate fluctuations due to the soil and vegetation large storage capacity and relatively slow dynamics. Often, there is a gap, in the complexity and spatio-temporal scales, between local models of soil-water flow and the land component of global climate models. This gap in scales also exists in measurements. Large scale measurements are usually derived from infrequent satellite imagery, while local measurements, used to develop and validate soil models, are captured locally and often continuously.

8. Water flow and heat transport in dryland soils: modeling and measurements
(as part of Soil-plant-atmosphere interactions in drylands)

Conveners: Naftali Lazarovitch and Golan Bel

The simultaneous movement of liquid water, water vapor, and heat in the soil plays an important role in the water and energy balance of the near surface environment of arid regions. Simulating water fluxes in unsaturated soils from complete saturation to complete dryness is challenging due to high nonlinearity and the hysteretic nature of the soil hydraulic functions. These functions describe the relation between the soil water potential, water content, and the hydraulic conductivity. Classical capillary-based functions typically hold between saturation and some residual water content. Recent models accounting for capillary and adsorptive water retention, but also for capillary and film conductivities. The success of the parameter determination of such functions depends on how well the water status is measured in extremely dry soils.

9. Soil-atmosphere exchange of greenhouse gases
(as part of Soil-plant-atmosphere interactions in drylands)

Conveners: Naftali Lazarovitch and Golan Bel

The soil-plant-atmosphere interactions and, in particular, the exchange of water, gas and energy play crucial roles in climate and ecosystem dynamics. These interactions have inspired a great deal of scientific research, and we possess a sophisticated understanding of these processes in mesic environments. However, in arid environments, where only a small fraction of the surface is covered by vegetation, the soil-atmosphere exchanges are much less understood. Soils provide the largest terrestrial carbon store, the largest atmospheric CO2 source and the largest terrestrial N2O source. A change in land use or management can alter these soil processes such that net greenhouse gas exchange may increase or decrease. Soil properties interact in complex ways with the biological processes responsible for the production and consumption of greenhouse gases.

10. Root quantification and modelling

Convener: Jhonathan Ephrath

This session will target the root zone. The main objective of this session will be to identify knowledge gaps related to the various physical, biological and chemical aspects of water and nutrient flow, transport and uptake in this important region that is believed to control both agronomic production and environmental aspects related to water. The session will be a gathering for researchers who study roots in different disciplines and at different scales, seeking both pure scientific understandings of the processes and their application for the benefit of society. Special emphasis will be given to novel measurement and modeling tools at the various scales, as well as to interdisciplinary research. The session will promote a fundamental understanding of the diverse aspects of root biology and will assemble researchers from multiple disciplines in order to facilitate the exploration of novel approaches and investigation of complex processes and mechanisms. The intersections of root physiology, root development, root architecture and root interactions with the environment will be addressed. Basic research at multiple scales (proteins, cells, tissues and the root system as a whole) and cutting-edge methodologies will be highlighted as important means to advancing agriculture.

11. Efficient use of water in dryland agriculture

Convener: Nurit Agam

In arid regions, crop productivity is limited by scarce rainfall, which is often supplemented by irrigation. In both rain-fed and irrigated cropping, the actual availability of water to the crops is largely dictated by the fraction of water that is lost to the atmosphere or to deep drainage. The magnitude of these fluxes is strongly affected by the sources of energy (radiation and advection). In drylands, irrigated row crops are common and are characterized by heterogeneous soil surface wetness that may lead to micro-advection, an additional complicating factor.

Monitoring and/or modeling of the various components of the water balance are necessary in order to improve the efficiency with which this scarce resource is used.

Presentations relevant to the aforementioned topics (theoretical or applied) are welcomed.

12. Afforestation in drylands: native and non-native trees

Convener: Ornea Reisman-Berman

Dryland afforestation constitutes a unique ecosystem that aims at increasing ecosystem services on degraded lands in harsh environments. Therefore, the selection of woody plant species for dryland afforestation actions must be an educated decision. In the past, species were selected mainly for their drought-resistant and fast-growth traits, and the selected species were mainly non-native. However, today there is a growing awareness of increasing the similarities between the novel ecosystem and the surrounding natural ecosystem by integrating native woody species into afforestation. This session will present various topics related to the function and the effects of integrating both native and non-native species into dryland afforestation, such as: novel ecosystems, assisted migration, physiology, ecology, and the genetics of the tree species, as well as the management of the individual tree and the landscape.

13. Multi-Source Land Imaging for Studying Desertification and Land Degradation

Conveners: Garik Gutman and Arnon Karnieli

Desertification and land degradation represent a global challenge to billions of people on the Earth. Land-cover change is one of the most obvious and detectable indicators of land-surface characteristics and associated human-induced and natural processes. Due to evolving technology, it has become increasingly feasible to derive land-cover change information from a combination of in situ surveys and earth observation satellite data at regional, national, and global scales. Regional analyses of desertification processes are the key to the understanding of causes and impacts of degradation. To be useful for sustainable, local combating strategies, regional analyses must provide spatially explicit information at sufficient detail. NASA- and ESA-affiliated scientists have been developing appropriate information services based on satellite observations to assess and monitor desertification and degradation trends over time. A synergistic use of spectral data with moderate to high spatial resolution from more than one source is getting momentum due to successful launches under the ESA Sentinel program. Landsat and Sentinel-2 optical data are now used synergistically by many researchers, sometimes combined with Sentinel-1 radar data. Efficient and synergistic use of these sensor data increases the number of observations available for studies. The proposed session aims at bringing together experts working on arid regions who study desertification/degradation issues by applying moderate-to-high (1-30m) resolution data. New ideas on synergistic use of data from various sensors, including moderate-to-high resolution thermal IR sensors, are welcome.

14. Remote Sensing – Tools and Implications in Dryland

Convener: Arnon Karnieli

Environmental problems of drylands such as desertification processes, land degradation and rehabilitation, land cover and land use change, climatic change, droughts, early warning, and more, are characterized by both spatial and temporal dimensions. Therefore, remote sensing techniques, based on long-term monitoring and repetitive data, over vast expanses of unsettled regions, are applicative and powerful tools for research and implementation in these areas.

Special sessions on REMOTE SENSING – TOOLS AND IMPLICATIONS IN DRYLAND will take place as part of the conference to promote scientific exchange between experts who work on remote sensing and geoinformation issues of the above drylands-related aspects with special intention to restoration actions and processes.

15. Role and function of organic matter in dryland soils: Carbon sequestration by combating desertification

Convener: Gilboa Arye

Soil organic carbon accounts for over 50% of soil organic matter and is commonly considered as a key indicator for soil quality with regard to its agricultural and environmental function. With increased organic matter content, aggregation stability and soil structure are improved and, consequently, water retention, the infiltration rate and resistance to soil erosion. The lack of or low organic matter content in agricultural dryland soils is traditionally compensated for by the artificial addition of organic matter from different origins. The use of marginal irrigation water, such as treated wastewater in dryland agriculture, provides continuous inputs of dissolved and particulate organic matter to the soil.

The proposed session will address issues that are related to the role and function of soil organic matter from different origins in agricultural dryland soils. In this regard, the subjects that will be presented are: surface activity, aggregate stability, soil erosion, soil amendment, and carbon sequestration.

16. On-site sanitation, wastewater treatment and reuse

Convener: Amit Gross

In the modern world, the use of natural resources and the production of domestic wastes and contaminated effluents have significantly increased, and they now pose severe health and environmental risks in many regions, specifically in arid regions. There is an urgent need to remedy already contaminated sites and to find means for minimizing these trends. A fairly new field of research, called Ecological Sanitation (ECOSAN), is a modern, usually on-site, alternative to conventional sanitation techniques. The objective is to protect human health and the environment. Unlike traditional sanitation methods, ecological sanitation processes on-site human waste (in addition to traditional waste, such as animal manure) to recover nutrients that would otherwise be discarded.

This session invites papers involving a range of on-site waste solutions, such as wetlands, biogas and other methods for small agro-waste operations, human wastes, wastewaters, greywater and more. It also seeks papers that evaluate the risks and environmental issues that are associated with such practices.

17. NGOs for water: activities in rural communities

Convener: Noam Weisbrod

Approximately 1.1 billion people in developing countries are currently living without an adequate supply of and access to potable water. In a world with slightly over 7 billion people, this is an outrageously high fraction of the global population. In order to ensure the water security of the world as a whole, it is necessary to start with these 1.1 billion impoverished people whose governments lack the funding necessary to help them. In developing countries, most of the population lives in rural areas where governmental involvement is often very limited. These communities often heavily depend on local agriculture and, in many cases, are limited to rain-fed agriculture. The outcome is that these rural communities are severely dependent on the activities of local or international NGOs (now also known as Civil Society Organizations: CSOs). This session aims to bring people together from organizations that are involved, in the past, present or future, in water-related activities in rural communities to share their ideas, methods, approaches, successes and failures. Representatives from both Israeli and international organizations are welcome, as well as scientists and officials who are interested in this topic.

18. Dating drylands and deserts: what palaeoenvironmental variation can tell us about current conditions

Convener: Berry Pinshow

The common denominator for deserts, drylands and desertification is the dynamics of rainfall and evapotranspiration (e.g. seasonality). Rainfall and evapotranspiration can be directly quantified in a modern context, but how does one estimate how much rainfall fell in the past and what annual abiotic conditions may have applied? By definition, deserts and drylands are unlikely to contain open sources of water, such as lakes and swamps associated with major rivers, while the growth of most of the trees in such areas exploit stochastic rainfall events rather than reflect annual variation regardless of rainfall. Even river discharge into desertified areas is affected by rainfall. Lake, swamp and fluvial deposits, as well as tree-rings, may therefore provide information of stochastic events from outside desertified areas that may be used to evaluate general conditions, but are not directly relevant to understanding environmental variation WITHIN such areas.

19. Indigenous dryland techniques to combat desertification

Convener: Pedro Berliner

Over the centuries, desert dwellers developed techniques that allowed them to produce, under conditions of low and variable rain, food and fodder. These techniques can be improved and adapted to various desertification-endangered soil-crop-climate configurations. Even though the techniques tend to be simple and thus easy to implement in developing countries, the biophysical interactions are extremely complicated and require in-depth studies to allow their modeling; the latter an essential tool necessary to implement these techniques in areas in which they have not been used hitherto. In the present session, field and modeling studies will be presented and discussed.

20. Modeling and measurement of non-rainfall water inputs

Convener: Nurit Agam (and Pedro Berliner)

Non-rainfall water inputs (NRWIs), i.e., a gain of water to the surface soil layer that is not caused by rainfall, comprise fog deposition, dew formation, and water vapor adsorption. In drylands, the annual amount of NRWIs can exceed that of rainfall and, in many areas, NRWIs are the sole source of liquid water during the long dry summer, and can therefore have a large effect on dryland ecosystems and crops.

We welcome contributions on the measurement and modeling of physical, chemical, and biological processes related to the NRWI phenomenon.

21. Self-organized vegetation patchiness: observations, modeling and model analysis

Convener: Ehud Meron

There is increasing evidence that spatial self-organization induced by water-vegetation feedbacks plays an important role in shaping dryland landscapes. Model studies have provided much insight into the mechanisms by which positive feedbacks can render uniform vegetation unstable and lead to the formation of vegetation patterns. Yet, the mechanisms at work in specific systems and the interplay between different mechanisms have remained largely unexplored. This session will bring together experts in modeling and in model analysis, as well as field and remote sensing experts, to present recent progress in understanding vegetation pattern formation and the implications it bears on ecosystem processes and function.

22. Fairy circles as a self-organization phenomenon

Convener: Ehud Meron

Fairy circles are circular gaps of bare soil in grasslands that form strikingly ordered patterns on large, landscape scales. They have been observed in western Namibia and recently also in northwestern Australia. Two main hypotheses have been proposed for the cause of their formation: termite colonies, which have been found in many circles, and water-vegetation interactions. This session will bring together entomologists, ecologists and physicists who will present recent empirical and model studies that shed new light on the controversial fairy-circle phenomenon. The interest in fairy circles goes beyond the mechanisms of their formation; whatever these mechanisms turn out to be, fairy circles provide excellent empirical case models to study the impact of spatial self-organization on ecological processes and ecosystem function.

23. Plant abiotic stress tolerance mechanisms for coping with arid and semi-arid environments

Conveners: Vered Tzin and Shimon Rachmilevitch

Plants growing in arid areas confront a number of abiotic stress-causing factors including drought, extreme temperatures, high winds, low humidity, high radiation, salinity and specific ion toxicity. These factors become tangible both as direct physiological stresses in the plants and as indirect stress components, via alterations to the physical environment. This session will provide a platform to understand and discuss some of the dominant abiotic stress-causing factors in the context of desert agriculture and to investigate methods to contend with them sustainably.

24. Vineyard-environment interactions

1. (as part of Viticulture in a changing climate)

Conveners: Nurit Agam, Naftali Lazarovitch and Aaron Fait

Environmental conditions optimal for quality wine-grape production are of a complex nature and are not easily defined. For example, a sufficient amount of radiation is required, but overexposure deteriorates yield quality. Similarly, a correct water balance is necessary for optimal grape development. The vast expansion of wine consumption worldwide and the increasing demand for quality wine, along with apparent signs of climate change and repeated droughts in many wine vineyard growing areas, make a better understanding of the vineyard-environment interactions necessary.

25. Viticulture/agronomy practices in relation to climate

1. (as part of Viticulture in a changing climate)

Conveners: Nurit Agam, Naftali Lazarovitch and Aaron Fait

Farmers have selected plant materials (variety, rootstock) and viticultural practices in accordance with local climatic conditions in order to optimize yield and quality. Common practices include irrigation, fertilization, soil tillage, disease control, pruning, trellising and harvesting. These viticultural practices can be modified to adapt to climatic variability and to optimize grape yield, aroma and flavor. In recent years, strategies applied in arid land viticulture were introduced into central Europe as a means of buffering the impact of climate change. The development of ad-hoc practices is thus becoming pivotal in facing the upcoming uncertainties in relation to the environment.

26. Vine molecular physiology and genetics

1. (as part of Viticulture in a changing climate)

Conveners: Nurit Agam, Naftali Lazarovitch and Aaron Fait

The economic value of grape as an agricultural crop relates not only to the yield but also to the quality of the berry as reflected by its chemical composition. A fundamental strategy to ameliorate fruit quality in a changing climate by optimizing viticulture practices lies in the (i) understanding of the mechanisms modulating the molecular physiology of the vine and the grape, (ii) dissecting the regulation of polyphenol and aroma potential, and the (iii) identification of candidate gene regulators of key biochemical pathways.

27. Urban form of dryland cities – mitigating effects of climate change and environmental degradation

Convener: E. Erell and D. Pearlmutter

Rapid urbanization in dryland countries is partly the result of land degradation in rural areas. Dryland cities often suffer from water shortages and inefficient use of energy resources, subjecting their inhabitants to poor environmental conditions that are exacerbated by global climate change as well as the urban heat island. Mitigating the consequences of these processes will require a better understanding of the effects of urban form on the energy-water-land nexus. The session will provide a forum for research on issues such as water-sensitive urban design, the urban forest, pedestrian thermal comfort in outdoor spaces and the interaction between the urban microclimate and building energy consumption.

28. Scientific conceptual framework for land degradation neutrality: a report of the Science-Policy Interface Committee

Conveners: Pam Chasek and Barron Orr

29. Land degradation neutrality: will Africa achieve it?: Institutional solutions to land degradation and restoration in Africa

Convener: Luc Gnacadja

Land degradation neutrality (SDG target 15.3) is defined as “a state whereby the amount and quality of land resources necessary to support ecosystem functions and services and enhance food security remain stable or increase within specified temporal and spatial scales and ecosystems” to address land stewardship at all levels for the sake of sustainability.

More than half of the additional two billion people who will live on Earth by 2050 will be born in Africa. The population of sub-Sahara Africa (SSA) is predicted to grow from 900 million in 2013 to about 1.4 billion by 2030 (UN, 2013), while the region is the world’s champion in poverty, hunger and food insecurity, land degradation and agriculture vulnerability to climate change.

But Africa is also a global hotspot for success stories in land restoration with innovations mostly occurring at local level. The institutional aspects are among the major hurdles to scaling up.

The proposed session aims to involve policy-makers, on-farm land managers and scientists to discuss the following:

What triggers land improvement processes and how can these triggers be mainstreamed?

How to support farmers to make SLM decisions and secured investments, while ensuring that they receive a fair share of the benefits generated downstream by their restoration efforts?

How to overcome the institutional challenges to scaling up restoration and furthering climate change adaptation in the agricultural sector in SSA? What enabling environment for achieving LDN? What is the role of the private sector?

30. Land degradation neutrality: the physical and geographical dimension

Convener: Alan Grainger


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