A piece of land, irrespective
of its size, is characterized by a particular use. This use
is associated with a given type of management which is dictated
mainly by climate and changes because of environmental, social,
economic, technological and political factors. Depending on
the particular type of management or land use intensity, land
resources are subject to a given degree of stress.
area with cotton under high land use intensity subjected
to frequently ploughing, fertilization, and irrigation
(photo by C. Kosmas)
|Unit of measure
within the logical framework DPSIR
|Type of Indicator
3. Target and
to the measures to combat desertification due to stress subjected
the natural resources from land management.
with respect to desertification
||Land use intensity
is related to processes of land degradation and desertification
such as soil erosion, soil structure decline, and salinization.
All of these processes are related to human actions such as
repeated destruction of vegetation on the sloping lands, reduction
in organic matter content and aggregate stability of soils,
improper tillage operations, and irrigation with low quality
water. By using the land less intensly, by reducing tillage
operations, grazing the land according to the stock carrying
capacity, exploiting forests on a sustainable basis, desertification
risk is reduced.
Conventions and agreements
||There is a
variety of transboundary legislation as well as EC directives
on land management and protection of natural resources.
of the indicator
of the various management practices for combating desertification.
description and basic definitions
and basic concepts
Exploitation of natural
resources around the Mediterranean region has significantly
changed in the last decades due to concentration of the population
in certain areas, increase of tourists visiting the Mediterrranean
region, expansion of the irrigated land, allocation of subsidies
to certain types of agriculture and improvement of technology.
The rural-urban migration has depleted the countryside of
its inhabitants resulting in the gradual abandonment of agriculture
and of traditional methods of cultivation. Thereafter, the
abandoned land is managed by the remaining farmers intensively
used without applying measures for land degradation protection.
Moreover, the availability of heavy powerful machinery favored
frequent and deep soil plowing at high speeds in directions
usually perpendicular to the contour lines causing severe
soil erosion problems. The large scale deforestation of hilly
areas accompanied by intensive cultivation and overgrazing
resulted in accelerated erosion and the formation of badlands
with very shallow soils.
Subsidies allocated to
the farmers have greatly contributed to the maintainance of
particular types of land uses (e.g. olive groves), to reinforce
the expansion of others (e.g. olive groves, durum wheat in
hilly areas), to induce change of pastures to agricultural
uses. The provision of subsidies to cattle raisers has contributed
to the increase in the number of animals leading to overgrazing
without a parallel effort to improve the grazing potential
of pastures. Shepherds often damage the natural vegetation
by deliberately setting fires to eradicate the vegetation
and encourage the growth of new grass, which the livestock
then overgraze. Overgrazing of climatically and topographically
marginal areas, accompanying by fires, constitutes a desertification-promoting
land use, further depleting the existing land resources.
Indication of the values/ranges of value
Three classes of land
use intensity are distinguished:
The definition of each
class is based on the type of land use.
The assessement of the
class of land use intensity is based on the land use type.
For each of the following land use types, the intensity of
the use is assessed separately.
- Agricultural land (cropland,
pasture or rangeland)
- Natural areas (forests,
shrubland, bare land)
- Mining land (quarries,
- Recreation areas (parks,
compact tourism development, tourist areas, etc.)
Agricultural land (cropland).
The intensity of land use for cropland is assessed by characterizing
the frequency of irrigation, degree of mechanization, the
use of agrochemicals and fertilizers, the crop varieties used,
etc. Three levels of land use intensity are distinguished
for the agricultural areas as following:
- Low land use intensity
(extensive agriculture). Local plant varieties are used,
fertilizers and pesticides are not applied, yields depend
primarily on the fertility of soils and environmental conditions.
Mechanization is limited. In the case of seasonal crops,
one crop is cultivated per year or the land remains fallow.
- Medium land use intensity.
Improved varieties are used, insufficient fertilizers are
applied and inadequate disease control is undertaken. Mechanization
is restricted to the most important tasks such as sowing.
- High land use intensity
(intensive agriculture). Improved varieties are used. Application
of fertilisers and control of diseases are adequate. Cultivation
is highly mechanized.
Pasture land. The
quality of management of pasture land can be assessed by estimating
the stock carrying capacity of the area and comparing it with
the actual number of animals grazing the area. The sustainable
stocking rate (SSR) expressed in animals per hectares can
be calculated by from the following equation:
SSR = X * P * F / R
where: R is the required
annual biomass intake per animal (sheep or goat 187.5 kg animal-1
year-1, FAO 1991), X is the fraction including grazing efficiency
and correction for biomass not produced during the latest
growing season (grazed: 0.5, non-grazed 0.25 year-1), P is
the averaged palatable biomass after dry season (kg ha-1 ),
F is the average fraction of the soil surface covered with
annuals plant species. The intensity of use is determined
by comparing the SSR and the number of animals grazing the
land and forming the ratio actual/sustainable.
Natural land (forests).
A major distinction must be made between natural forests and
managed forest. In the case of natural forests the land use
intensity is considered low as there is by definition absence
of any management. In the case of managed forests, the intensity
of use is determined by comparing the sustainable and the
actual yield of the forest and forming the ratio actual/sustainable.
Mining land. Mining
activities have a highly degrading effect both during their
lifetime and after the end of the mining. Hence, a primary
distinction is made between active and inactive mining sites.
For active sites, the enforcement of reclamation policies
is an important determinant of the degradation prospects of
these sites. The intensity of land use can be assessed according
to the following ideas for the case of active mining: Surface
or subsurface mining with full erosion monitoring will be
considered as well managed (low land use intensity). Surface
or subsurface mining with moderate erosion monitoring will
be rated with medium land use intensity. Surface or subsurface
mining activities without, or with minimum erosion monitoring,
will be rated with high land use intensity and high desertification
Recreation areas. The
diversity of types of recreation areas as well as the indirect
effects of recreation activities on the environment requires
the basic distinction between passive ad active recreation,
since these may cause a significant different degree of stress
on the land. Passive recreation, which is the least threatening
to the environment, includes walking, nature seeing, mountain
climbing, swimming and similar activities. Active recreation,
which is more important for land degradation, includes skiing,
cross country skiing games (e.g. sand rallies), etc. The quality
of management is a function of both the size of the demand
as well as the management strategies and practices employed.
The assessment procedure would involve: (a) assessment of
the visitor carrying capacity of the recreation area (maximum
number of visitors permitted per year), (b) assessment of
the actual number of visitors per year, (c) calculation of
the ratio of actual to permitted number of visitors per year,(d)
rating the quality of management as high if the ratio is equal
or less than one, and as low if the ratio is greater than
Like recreation areas, tourist areas cannot easily assessed
for the following reasons: (a) tourist areas may be part of
or intermingle with urban areas or existing settlements in
general, (b) in some cases tourism is the principal activity
in an area, (c) tourism may affect not only the particular
geographic area considered, but other locations due to environmental
linkage, (d) tourism and recreation activities are difficult
to distinguish in practice and may occur simultaneously at
the same place, (e) tourism may be important in certain areas
only such as coasts and sensitive ecosystems. The intensity
of tourism development can be assessed following the procedure
described for recreation.
|Limits of the
||The most important
limit of this indicator is the assessment of the intensity of
land use. It can be subjected to personal judgment.
application, Water availability,
Mechanization index, Grazing
control, Land use type
of data needs and availability
to calculate the indicator
data depeinding on the type of land use.
are usually available and accessible or they can be assessed
by local observations.
of data from national and international sources
can be obtained from national agencies, various regional institutions
involved in collecting and elaborating land management related
that have participated in developing the indicator
University of Athens
of Lisbon, Murcia, Basilicata
C., Kirkby, M. and Geeson, N. 1999. Manual on: Key indicators
of desertification and mapping environmentally sensitive areas
to desertification. European Commission, Energy, Environment
and Sustainable Development, EUR 18882, 87 p.
||Enne, G., and
Zucca, C. 2001. Desertification indicators for the Europian
Mediterranean Region. ANPA-AgenziaNazionale per la Protezionedell
Ambiente, Rome, Italy 261 p.
Name and address
Laboratory of Soils and Agricultural Chemistry,
Iera Odos 75,
Athens 11855, Greece
Dr. C. Kosmas