Ecogeomorphology of Sand Dunes Shaped by Vegetation

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 5:45 PM
Haim Tsoar, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel
Two dune types associated with vegetation are known: Parabolic and Vegetated Linear Dunes (VLDs), the latters are the dominant dune type in the world deserts. Parabolic dunes are formed in humid, sub-humid and semi-arid environments (rather than arid) where vegetation is nearby.  VLDs are known today in semiarid and arid lands where the average yearly rainfall is 100 mm, enough to support sparse cover of vegetation. These two dune types are formed by unidirectional winds although they demonstrate a different form and have a distinct dynamics. Conceptual and mathematical models of dunes mobility and stability, based on three control parameters: wind power (DP), average annual precipitation (p), and the human impact parameter (µ) show that where human impact is negligible the effect of wind power (DP) on vegetative cover is substantial. The average yearly rainfall of 60-80 mm is the threshold of annual average rainfall for vegetation growth on dune sand. The model is shown to follow a hysteresis path, which explains the bistability of active and stabilized dunes under the same climatic conditions with respect to wind power. We have discerned formation of parabolic dunes from barchans and transverse dunes in the coastal plain of Israel where a decrease in human activity during the second half of the 20th century caused establishment of vegetation on the crest of the dunes, a process that changed the dynamics of these barchans and transverse dunes and led to a change in the shape of the windward slope from convex to concave. These dunes gradually became parabolic. It seems that VLDs in Australia or the Kalahari have always been vegetated to some degree, though the shrubs were sparser in colder periods when the aeolian erosion was sizeable. Those ancient conditions are characterized by higher wind power and lower rainfall that can reduce, but not completely destroy, the vegetation cover, leading to the formation of lee (shadow) dunes behind each shrub. Formation of such VLDs can occur today in some coasts where the wind is quite strong and the rain can support some shrubs.