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Desertification Indicator System for Mediterranean Europe

1. Definition

Brief definition Policy enforcement refers to the implementation of existing regulations on environmental protection. For example the Greek regulation 1032/1979 defines policies for the protection of forested areas and considers measures for the improvement and development of these areas. The Policy enforcement indicator is used to assess the degree of application of the specific regulation on forested areas.
Example of adequate enforcement of the regulation on soil erosion protection by supporting adequate vegetation cover and applying controlled grazing (photo by C. Kosmas)
Unit of measure Percentage of the area protected
Spatial scale  
Temporal scale  

2. Position within the logical framework DPSIR

Type of Indicator Response

3. Target and political pertinence

Objective Contribution to the measures to combat desertification due to stress induced by land management on natural resources.
Importance with respect to desertification Policy enforcement of specific regulations is related to the application of measures for protection of the land from desertification. For example in a cultivated area some typical management practices for reducing tillage and water erosion are: (i) no tillage or minimum tillage, (ii) tillage of soil in the up-slope direction, (iii) contour farming, (iv) enhancement of vegetation cover. Therefore, protection of the land from soil erosion depends on the effectiveness of the implementation /enforcement of such actions.
International Conventions and agreements There exists a variety of trans-boundary legislation, as well as EC directives, on land management and protection of natural resources.
Secondary objectives of the indicator Evaluation of the various management practices for combating desertification.

4. Methodological description and basic definitions

Definitions and basic concepts

Desertification is a complex socio-environmental phenomenon caused by 'complex interactions among physical, biological, social, cultural, social, and economic factors' (UNCCD 1999) and involving socio-environmental systems that are not necessarily tightly connected. A large number of national and EU policies and policy initiatives impinge, in one way or another, on the bio-physical as well as the socio-economic conditions that may be contributing directly or indirectly, positively or negatively, to land degradation and desertification. In the concept of the indicator "Policy enforcement" attention is given to the policies related to the land protection from desertification such as policies supporting terracing, policies favouring extensive agriculture, coastal protection policies, etc. Of course their effectiveness depends on the degree to which they are enforced. Therefore, rating of relative policies on environmental protection is based on the degree to which they are enforced. Hence, the information must be collected on the existing policies and their implementation/enforcement. The information needed depends on the policy under consideration. For example, in the case of terracing protection policy, a relevant piece of information might be the ratio of protected to existing terraces. In the case of extensive agriculture policy, a relevant piece of information might be the percentage of farms (or farmers) or the percentage of area under extensive agriculture.

Studies conducted in the island of Lesvos (Greece) showed that policy enforcement generally decreased as the sensitivity of the land to desertification increased. Critical environmentally sensitive areas (ESAs), corresponding mainly to pastures or cereals, were not adequately protected. Overgrazing, burning of the natural vegetation, and lack of erosion control measures are common practices that lead to land degradation and desertification. On the other hand, fragile ESAs, corresponding to land uses such as olive groves, pine forests are relatively adequately protected by: (a) land terracing, (b) minimum or no tillage, (c) forest fire protection, (d) ploughing the soil parallel to the contour lines, etc.

Degree of policy enforcement in the various types of ESAs in the island of Lesvos (N=non-threatened areas, P=potential ESAs, F1, F2, F3=fragile ESAs, C1, C2, C3=critical ESAs).
Benchmarks Indication of the values/ranges of value

Four classes of policy enforcement are distinguished:

  • adequate (>75% of the land is protected),
  • moderate (25-75% of the land is protected),
  • low (<25% of the land is protected),
  • none.
Methods of measurement The effectiveness of implementation of an existing policy on environmental protection is rated by assessing the degree of enforcement. For example, in the case of terracing protection policy, a relevant piece of information is the ratio of protected terraces to existing terraces in a certain farm.
Limits of the indicator The indicator can be subject to personal judgment during the assessment of the implementation/enforcement of a certain policy.
Linkages with other indicators Land use intensity, Sustainable farming, Terraces (presence of), Groundwater depth (change in), Runoff water storage, Reclamation of affected soils, Forest fire protection, Grazing control, Reclamation of mining areas, Soil erosion control measures, Soil water conservation.

5. Evaluation of data needs and availability

Data required to calculate the indicator Existing regulations on environmental protection and degree of implementation/enforcement on an certain area.
Data sources Necessary data are usually available and accessible or they can be assessed by local observations.
Availability of data from national and international sources Data can be obtained from national agencies, various regional institutions involved in collecting and elaborating land management related data.

6. Institutions that have participated in developing the indicator

Main institutions responsible Agricultural University of Athens
Other contributing organizations Universities of Lisbon, Murcia, Potenza

7. Additional information

Bibliography Kosmas, 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.
Other references

Enne, G., and Zucca, C. 2001. Desertification indicators for the Europian Mediterranean Region. ANPA-AgenziaNazionale per la Protezionedell Ambiente, Rome, Italy 261 p.

Briassoulis, H. 2003. Mediterranean desertification, framing the policy context. European Commission, Directorate-General for Research, Sustainable Development, Global Change and Ecosystems, Project EVK2-CT-2000-00085.

Contacts Name and address Dr. C. Kosmas
Agricultural University of Athens,
Laboratory of Soils and Agricultural Chemistry,
Iera Odos 75,
Athens 11855,
email: lsos2kok@aua.gr