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Desertification Processes

 

B1 - Soil erosion

by Anton Imeson and Michiel Curfs

Abstract
It is very easy and simple to prevent erosion and yet at least 75 per cent of the world’s farmed soils have been degraded or affected by it. In the Northern Mediterranean region, this percentage is even higher. Because land has been degraded by erosion in the past doesn’t mean it is necessarily under any threat of erosion today. The greatest amount of erosion is occurring now on agricultural and afforested land. When erosion occurs, it can also cause flooding and off-site damage on flood plains. Several different types of erosion occur in the Mediterranean region and these include splash and sheet erosion, rill, gully, tunnel and channel erosion wind erosion as well as erosion caused by animals and land use activities. The problems are potentially worse than in more humid regions because of the specific soil and climate conditions. Factors that influence erosion are the energy and amount of rain, the capacity of soil to resist erosion, the amount of the ground covered and protected by vegetation, the slope characteristics and management practices. In practice erosion is very challenging to study because the conditions influencing it are dynamic and always changing. It is both complicated to measure and to model.
How seriously should we be concerned about soil erosion in the Mediterranean? What are the consequences for society and what are the predictions for erosion in relation to climate change? Erosion is rather easy to control or prevent.
The principles of soil conservation and protection have been understood probably for millennia so that when erosion problems occur in the Mediterranean, it is a simple matter to take appropriate action to stop it. In fact, erosion would be less of an issue if resources and laws would be enacted to create the institutions needed to manage and monitor it, such as a soil, land and water conservation service.

 

Booklet

Leaflet

PowerPoint

 

B2 - Fire

by V. Ramon Vallejo and Alejandro Valdecantos

Abstract
Fire is a natural factor in most Mediterranean ecosystems. However, the increased frequency and extension of wildfires since mid XX century has made wildfires one of the most important desertification driving forces under dry Mediterranean conditions. Fire has important consequences at every ecological level: soil, hydrological cycle, flora, fauna, and ecosystem structure and functioning. The assessment of ecosystem vulnerability to wildfire is fundamental to the planning of post-fire management, and it is estimated on the basisof soil erodibility, climate, topography and vegetation recovery capacity. The specific management objectives for fire-prone wildland areas may change at the temporal scale. The first priority should be soil conservation and water regulation at the sort-term, while the reduction of fire hazard and the increase of ecosystem resilience will prevail later. An accurate identification of sensitive areas to degradation after fire, and the implementation of suitable restoration techniques will help mitigating fire impacts and enhancing post-fire regeneration towards mature, less flammable forest ecosystems.

 

Booklet

Leaflet

PowerPoint

 

B3 - Salinisation

by Massimo Iannetta and Nicola Colonna

Abstract
This booklet explain the nature and extent of salinisation in Europe, and how it can be either a cause or an effect of desertification. It present and explain the setting of salinity problems found in Europe. These range from those that sometimes occur seasonally in areas of high evaporation where large amounts of water soluble salts are found in the soil, to those that occur as a result of the evaporation of irrigation water or the intrusion of saline groundwater. Salt affects soil properties, plant growth, soil erosion and consequently desertification. Hotspots of salinisation tend to correspond with areas of intensive agriculture in southern Europe. The results of research in Europe is described and translated into management strategies.

 

Booklet

Leaflet

PowerPoint

 

B4 - Land abandonment

by Costas Kosmas, Nicholas Yassoglou, Aikaterini Kounalaki, Orestis Kairis

Abstract
Hilly areas cultivated for long period and subjected to high soil erosion rates have lost most of the productive soil. Under hot and dry climatic conditions, such areas can not economically support rainfed crops leading to land abandonment. Land abandonment occurs as a result of external driving forces, such as market changes, or internal changes, related to specific thresholds such as a critical soil depth for plant growth. Abandonment of agricultural land can be predicted by assessing various indicators related to land productivity and farmer’s income such as soil depth, parent material, slope gradient, amount and distribution of rainfall, existing subsidies, population migration, water availability, accessibility, etc. An abandoned agricultural land can move towards recovery or desertification depending on the state of the land at the time of its abandonment and on the management practices following afterwards.  Recovery of natural vegetation and expansion of forest and shrubs will result in ecosystem recovery. In the opposite, degradation of natural vegetation due to overgrazing will leads to accelerated soil erosion and desertification of the land is inevitable.

 

Booklet

Leaflet

PowerPoint

 

B5 - Water use

by Christos Karavitis

Abstract
Water resources management requires urgent and holistic decisions to be made with regard to such problems as increasing water demands by various users; changes in the physical environment (desertification, aridity, etc.) alteration of the water balance; and the generation of pollutants that may contaminate streams and groundwater. One of the major consequences of desertification is that water availability decreases but it is very difficult to separate shortages resulting from increased water demand from those caused, for example, by soil erosion and degradation. This booklet will present the results of European research that illustrate the changes that have occurred in both water resources availability and water demands. It will describe results of projects that improve water use efficiency and overall water resources management, as well as the different policies that are being used to make more water available and at the same time protecting ecosystem and environmental functions.

Booklet

Leaflet

PowerPoint

 

B6 - Littoralisation

by Pandi Zdruli

Abstract
The word “littoral” derives from the Italian “litorale” and could often have ambiguous meanings. Most common definitions however relate to “waterfront”, “waterside”, “intertidal zone” or “littoral zone” and are related to the activities that are occurring on a rather narrow strip of land and water otherwise known as the coastal zone. Generally the process could be described as the internal population migration towards the coast and the “maritimisation” of the economy linked with economic activities such as tourism, harbour, naval and storage facilities and services, oil industry, fishing, and infrastructure development all resulting in a tremendous expansion of artificial land cover over rather short time periods. Rarely these processes are elsewhere more accentuated than in the Mediterranean. On-site effects of littoralisation include urbanisation, soil sealing, and population pressure including tourism, agricultural activities, and flooding. Off-site effects relate to extreme disparities of development between the coastal zones and the hinterlands where large inland areas are being abandoned, leaving behind neglected forests, eroded lands, collapsed terraces, overgrazing, forest fires and overall degradation. The best way to deal with littoralisation is to apply the principles of Intergraded Coastal Zone Management (ICZM).

More specifically the ICZM intend to address the following key points:

  • Develop a unifying framework for equitable solutions and conflict solving between the competing interests
  • Allow for restoration of aquatic ecosystems
  • Value and enhance ecosystem products and services
  • Allow for policy analyses, cross cutting issues and implementation through participatory management and involvement of all stakeholders

Booklet

Leaflet

PowerPoint

 

B7 - Climate Change

by Clare Goodess

Abstract
A changing climate is one of the many factors that may contribute towards desertification in regions such as the Mediterranean. Hence it is essential to consider the effects of anthropogenic, as well as natural, climate change and how they may affect the local-scale patterns of climate across the Mediterranean, including the occurrence of extreme events such as droughts and heatwaves. The main picture over the last 40-50 years is of increasing temperature, including more high-temperature extremes and fewer lower-temperature extremes, over all regions of the Mediterranean – except for some parts of the Eastern Mediterranean. For rainfall, the general trend is for a decrease, reflected in both lower rainfall totals and longer dry periods. These trends are projected to continue into the future, accompanied by largely negative impacts including increased fire risk, decrease in crop productivity and greater water stress. The evidence indicates that the impacts of climate change in the Mediterranean are likely to be severe – both for natural systems and people.

 

Booklet

Leaflet

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LUCINDA Project 2006/2008