Sunday, April 17, 2011

Disappearing desert at the Sinai borders

Discovery News (Emily Sohn)

This focuses on the environment but the area is also rich in prehistoric archaeology.

On the Egyptian side of the Israel border near the Gaza Strip, armed soldiers pace along barbed wire fences, which stand three layers thick in some places, while Israeli soldiers look out from their own towers on the other side.

The goal of this high-security border is to keep out intruders. But the barriers have begun an unintentional experiment on the ability of ancient deserts to survive tough political times. And so far, things are not looking good for the desert and its creatures.

Thanks to an arbitrary line drawn in the sand, Israel's dunes are starting to crust over with green algae that make the sand hard and crunchy. Egypt's dunes, on the other hand, remain soft, yellow and rippled -- mainly because nomadic Bedouins are still allowed to graze their sheep and goats there.

The contrast is so stark that, in satellite images, the sharp yellow-green line is the most visible border in the world from above, said Yaron Ziv, a landscape ecologist at Israel's Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

No comments: