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Effects of Different Land Uses (Abandoned Farmland, Intensive Agriculture and Forest) on Soil Hydrological Properties in Southern Spain
Open AccessArticle

Impact of Farmland Abandonment on Water Resources and Soil Conservation in Citrus Plantations in Eastern Spain

Soil Erosion and Degradation Research Group, Department of Geography, Valencia University, Blasco Ibàñez, 28, 46010 Valencia, Spain
Israel Heritage Department and the Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology, Ariel University, P.O.B. 3, Ariel 4070000, Israel
Department of Cartographic Engineering, Geodesy and Photogrammetry, Universitat Politècnica de València, Camino de Vera, s/n, 46022 Valencia, Spain
Instituto de Geomorfología y Suelos, Department of Geography, University of Málaga, Edificio Ada Byron, Ampliación del Campus de Teatinos, 29071 Málaga, Spain
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Water 2019, 11(4), 824;
Received: 28 March 2019 / Revised: 12 April 2019 / Accepted: 17 April 2019 / Published: 19 April 2019
Due to the reduction in the prices of oranges on the market and social changes such as the ageing of the population, traditional orange plantation abandonment in the Mediterranean is taking place. Previous research on land abandonment impact on soil and water resources has focused on rainfed agriculture abandonment, but there is no research on irrigated land abandonment. In the Valencia Region—the largest producer of oranges in Europe—abandonment is resulting in a quick vegetation recovery and changes in soil properties, and then in water erosion. Therefore, we performed rainfall simulation experiments (0.28 m2; 38.8 mm h−1) to determine the soil losses in naveline orange plantations with different ages of abandonment (1, 2, 3, 5, 7 and 10 years of abandonment) which will allow for an understanding of the temporal changes in soil and water losses after abandonment. Moreover, these results were also compared with an active plantation (0). The results show that the soils of the active orange plantations have higher runoff discharges and higher erosion rates due to the use of herbicides than the plots after abandonment. Once the soil is abandoned for one year, the plant recovery reaches 33% of the cover and the erosion rate drops one order of magnitude. This is related to the delay in the runoff generation and the increase in infiltration rates. After 2, 3, 5, 7 and 10 years, the soil reduced bulk density, increase in organic matter, plant cover, and soil erosion rates were found negligible. We conclude that the abandonment of orange plantations reduces soil and water losses and can serve as a nature-based solution to restore the soil services, goods, and resources. The reduction in the soil losses was exponential (from 607.4 g m−2 in the active plot to 7.1 g m−2 in the 10-year abandoned one) but the water losses were linear (from 77.2 in active plantations till 12.8% in the 10-year abandoned ones). View Full-Text
Keywords: agricultural land management; irrigated fields; erosion; abandonment; soil properties agricultural land management; irrigated fields; erosion; abandonment; soil properties
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Cerdà, A.; Ackermann, O.; Terol, E.; Rodrigo-Comino, J. Impact of Farmland Abandonment on Water Resources and Soil Conservation in Citrus Plantations in Eastern Spain. Water 2019, 11, 824.

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