DDD Conference

Prof. Aviad Heifetz

Agricultural desertification – the curse of resources for Arabian babblers in the Arava Valley

Open University of Israel

In the Arava valley in southern Israel, during the last 50 years water for greenhouse agriculture is getting drilled from increasing depths, causing flora dehydration outside the seasonally flooded wadis, and fauna attraction to the unpredictable organic garbage piles surrounding the greenhouses. In Shezaf nature reserve, this process is detrimental in particular to the population of the Arabian babbler, the only cooperatively breeding songbird in Israel. The number of individuals and groups shrank by about 50%, and groups next to the greenhouses live a much more intensive and brutish life, with larger but less stable groups in smaller territories, increased aggression both inside the groups and towards neighboring groups, shorter life span, with more nesting rounds per year but less offspring surviving to adulthood per nest. We present a game-theoretic model with such consequences due to volatile and unpredictable resources. We conclude with low-cost recommendations to the farmers and the authorities/regulators for alleviating these adverse repercussions to the wildlife.