Evaluating soil seed banks of phosphate mining restoration in the hyper-arid Negev desert

Tom Zylberberg, Guy Rotem, Yaron Ziv

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ecological systems are severely damaged by the anthropogenic disturbance of mining. Phosphate open-pit mining fields cover over 200 km2 of the Negev desert, Israel. However, the effects of the ongoing mine site restoration efforts on the plant community have not been studied. Plants and their seed banks have a major role in ecosystem processes and restoration. In this study, we focused on three mining sites, restored in different years, along Zin River valley. We compared the plant community of restored mining plots within these areas to adjacent natural plots. We asked whether plant community germination potential from the soil seed bank differs between the restored plots and the adjacent natural plots within a mining site. We hypothesized that: (1) there is a lack of seed bank in the restored plots; (2) the altered soil composition at the restored plots inhibits germination. We used soil samples collected from the different mining sites and set up greenhouse experiments. One experiment compared natural and restored areas with different soil treatments. In another experiment, we added native seeds to test their germination potential on restored soil. Our results indicate that lack of seed bank is the major limiting factor hindering germination and not the composition of the soil after restoration. Our findings shed light on the constraints of seed bank establishment in post-mining areas of hyper-arid regions. We suggest considering active restoration practices to facilitate natural dispersal and improve seed bank establishment.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere13938
JournalRestoration Ecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2024


  • community composition
  • ecological restoration
  • germination
  • hyper-arid desert
  • mine site restoration
  • phosphate mining
  • soil seed banks
  • topsoil

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Ecology


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