Global Change in Mediterranean Regions: Potential Impact of Climate Drift and Land Use on Soil Erosion and Land Degradation

A special issue of Land (ISSN 2073-445X).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 26 June 2024 | Viewed by 7133

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Florence, 50121 Florence, Italy
Interests: soil erosion; soil physics; climate change and soil fluxes interactions

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Guest Editor
Department of Agriculture, Food and Environment, University of Catania, Via S. Sofia 100, 95123 Catania, Italy
Interests: water management; water quality; soil erosion

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Guest Editor
IRD, UMR LISAH (Laboratoire d'étude des Interactions Sol-Agrosystème-Hydrosystème), F-34060 Montpellier, France
Interests: soil erosion; hydrology; GIS; remote sensing; model

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Guest Editor
Institut Agro, UMR G-EAU, 361 Rue Jean François Breton, 34090 Montpellier, France
Interests: hydrology; soil and water conservation; GIS; hydrological modeling

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Mediterranean-climate regions are located across various regions of the globe and account for about 2% of the Earth’s surface. These regions are typically characterized by a unique climatic regime with wet winters and warm, dry summers. Presenting an extensive biodiversity, they are internationally recognized as one of the most sensitive regions to the impacts of climate change and anthropic actions.
In such contexts, soil erosion offers a critical perspective of future effects as it is associated with a general degradation of the environment and depletion of soil nutrients due to the anthropic impacts of agricultural exploitation. In many Mediterranean areas, the interactions between climate and human activities have already led to short- and mid-term unsustainability.
Although total rainfall is generally decreasing in these regions, the intensity of extreme events is expected to increase, leading to an alarming potential for climate change to impact soil erosion and land degradation. Furthermore, many factors related to land use contribute to the aggravation of the phenomenon, such as changes in land use and erosive crops increasing soil loss.
This Special Issue aims to collect and highlight developments in the detection, monitoring, and modelling of soil erosion and land degradation in Mediterranean areas, with special attention on long-term perspectives. These findings are thought to support and be useful for the implementation of ecosystem services and for understanding, planning, solving, and mitigating soil erosion in these fragile ecosystems and agricultural environments.

Dr. Rossano Ciampalini
Dr. Feliciana Licciardello
Dr. Damien Raclot
Dr. Armand Crabit
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • soil erosion
  • land degradation
  • Mediterranean context
  • climate change
  • land use
  • monitoring and modelling

Published Papers (4 papers)

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Research

14 pages, 2541 KiB  
Article
Mediterranean Wildfires’ Effect on Soil Quality and Properties: A Case from Northern Euboea, Greece
by Ifigeneia Megremi, Eleni Stathopoulou, Efstathios Vorris, Marios Kostakis, Sotirios Karavoltsos, Nikolaos Thomaidis and Charalampos Vasilatos
Land 2024, 13(3), 325; https://doi.org/10.3390/land13030325 - 03 Mar 2024
Viewed by 604
Abstract
Physical and chemical soil properties are affected by wildfires. Post-wildfire runoff may contain nutrient loads and particulate matter that negatively impact soil, surface water, and groundwater. According to data from the Copernicus Emergency Management Service, devastating wildfires on Northern Euboea Island, Greece, in [...] Read more.
Physical and chemical soil properties are affected by wildfires. Post-wildfire runoff may contain nutrient loads and particulate matter that negatively impact soil, surface water, and groundwater. According to data from the Copernicus Emergency Management Service, devastating wildfires on Northern Euboea Island, Greece, in August 2021 destroyed more than 50,910 ha. Coniferous and broad-leaved forests mostly covered the affected area, according to CORINE. Topsoil and subsoil samples were collected from burned areas and analyzed for physicochemical parameters: pH, electrical conductivity, and organic carbon. After digestion with aqua regia, the Pb, Zn, Cd, Cu, Mn, Fe, Cr, Ni, Co, and As ‘pseudo total’ contents were determined. Leaching experiments were conducted to evaluate the levels of potentially toxic elements leaching from soils and the impact of environmental conditions. The leachates were analyzed for Pb, Zn, Cd, Cu, Mn, Fe, Cr, Ni, Co, As, Ca, Mg, Na, and K. Overall, most of the concentrations of the studied elements were higher in fire-affected soils than in unburned ones. Similar findings for element concentrations have been confirmed between topsoils and subsoils, with the latter exhibiting lower values. The increased ‘pseudo total’ values of Cr, Ni, Fe, Co, and Mn in all the soil samples, along with the medium to high positive correlations between them, indicate that geogenic factors play a major role in controlling element enrichment. High concentrations of Mn, Ni, and As in soil leachates exceeded the EU maximum permissible limits, indicating a potential ecological risk to natural water quality and, subsequently, to human health. The correlation coefficients between elements in fire-affected and unburned soils suggested that their geogenic origins were mainly associated with the ultramafic rocks and related ores of the study area. The elements’ concentrations in the leachates were significantly lower than their ‘pseudo total’ contents in soil, with no correlation between them. The reducing order of elements leachability did not coincide with the decreasing order of elements ‘pseudo total’ median values in soils. The decreasing order of element abundance in soil leachates coincides with their relative extractability and differs from the decreasing order of their ‘pseudo total’ median values in soils. Neutral to alkaline, soil pH conditions and organic carbon content, which substantially influence the retention and mobility of elements, presented different patterns among the studied elements, with only Mn, Cr, and Co showing correlations. The increased content of organic matter in fire-affected soils suggests that the combustion of vegetation was incomplete. Full article
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21 pages, 50514 KiB  
Article
Soil Loss Estimation by Water Erosion in Agricultural Areas Introducing Artificial Intelligence Geospatial Layers into the RUSLE Model
by Nikiforos Samarinas, Nikolaos L. Tsakiridis, Eleni Kalopesa and George C. Zalidis
Land 2024, 13(2), 174; https://doi.org/10.3390/land13020174 - 01 Feb 2024
Viewed by 1379
Abstract
The existing digital soil maps are mainly characterized by coarse spatial resolution and are not up to date; thus, they are unable to support the physical process-based models for improved predictions. The overarching objective of this work is oriented toward a data-driven approach [...] Read more.
The existing digital soil maps are mainly characterized by coarse spatial resolution and are not up to date; thus, they are unable to support the physical process-based models for improved predictions. The overarching objective of this work is oriented toward a data-driven approach and datacube-based tools (Soil Data Cube), leveraging Sentinel-2 imagery data, open access databases, ground truth soil data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) architectures to provide enhanced geospatial layers into the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) model, improving both the reliability and the spatial resolution of the final map. The proposed methodology was implemented in the agricultural area of the Imathia Regional Unit (northern Greece), which consists of both mountainous areas and lowlands. Enhanced soil maps of Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) and soil texture were generated at 10 m resolution through a time-series analysis of satellite data and an XGBoost (eXtrene Gradinent Boosting) model. The model was trained by 84 ground truth soil samples (collected from agricultural fields) taking into account also additional environmental covariates (including the digital elevation model and climatic data) and following a Digital Soil Mapping (DSM) approach. The enhanced layers were introduced into the RUSLE’s soil erodibility factor (K-factor), producing a soil erosion layer with high spatial resolution. Notable prediction accuracy was achieved by the AI model with R2 0.61 for SOC and 0.73, 0.67 and 0.63 for clay, sand, and silt, respectively. The average annual soil loss of the unit was found to be 1.76 ton/ha/yr with 6% of the total agricultural area suffering from severe erosion (>11 ton/ha/yr), which was mainly found in the mountainous border regions, showing the strong influence of the mountains in the agricultural fields. The overall methodology could strongly support regional decision making and planning and environmental policies such as the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Full article
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13 pages, 1835 KiB  
Article
Soil Aggregate Stability in Salt-Affected Vineyards: Depth-Wise Variability Analysis
by Aplena E. S. Bless, François Colin, Armand Crabit and Stéphane Follain
Land 2022, 11(4), 541; https://doi.org/10.3390/land11040541 - 07 Apr 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1790
Abstract
Soil aggregate stability is an ideal integrative soil quality indicator, but little is known about the relevance of such an indicator with soil depth for salt-affected soils. The objective of this study was to determine soil aggregate stability and identify preponderant aggregation factors, [...] Read more.
Soil aggregate stability is an ideal integrative soil quality indicator, but little is known about the relevance of such an indicator with soil depth for salt-affected soils. The objective of this study was to determine soil aggregate stability and identify preponderant aggregation factors, both in topsoil and subsoil horizons in salt-affected conditions. We conducted field investigations by describing soil profiles in pedological pits and by collecting soil samples from different field units. Soils were sampled within different soil horizon types, from superficial tilled organo-mineral horizons to mineral horizons. For all soil samples, we determined the mean weight diameter (MWD) as an indicator of soil aggregate stability and also determined associated physical and chemical properties in some samples. The measured MWD value from 0.28 mm to 1.10 mm could be categorised as unstable, with MWD values and variability decreasing drastically from the topsoil to the deepest mineral horizons. Analysis of MWD in relation to physical and chemical properties suggested that the variability in the MWD value of A-horizons was influenced by both clay fraction abundance and soil organic carbon (SOC) content and the nature of the agricultural practices, while at deeper B-horizons, the decrease in SOC content and the variability in other soil properties with soil depth could be used to explain the overall low aggregate stability. In this study, investigations of soil pits coupled with measurements of soil aggregate stability indicated that it could be possible to restore soil structure quality by limiting deep soil profile compaction in order to improve salt leaching and exportation. Full article
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17 pages, 4081 KiB  
Article
Erosion Rate of the Aliano Biancana Badlands Based on a 3D Multi-Temporal High-Resolution Survey and Implications for Wind-Driven Rain
by Antonella Marsico, Vincenzo De Santis and Domenico Capolongo
Land 2021, 10(8), 828; https://doi.org/10.3390/land10080828 - 07 Aug 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2007
Abstract
Biancana badlands are peculiar landforms in the Basilicata region of Italy resulting from the local combination of geological, geomorphological, and climatic settings. The evolution of badlands mainly depends on slope erosion, which is controlled by the angle, exposure, and vegetation of the slope [...] Read more.
Biancana badlands are peculiar landforms in the Basilicata region of Italy resulting from the local combination of geological, geomorphological, and climatic settings. The evolution of badlands mainly depends on slope erosion, which is controlled by the angle, exposure, and vegetation of the slope and its interactions with insolation, rain, and wind. Multi-temporal, detailed, high-resolution surveys have led researchers to assess changes in slopes to investigate the spatial distributions of erosion and deposition and the influence of wind-driven rain (WDR). A comparison between two terrestrial laser scanner (TLS) point clouds surveyed during 2006 and 2016 fieldwork showed that the study area suffers from intense erosion that is not spatially uniform on all sides of biancane. By combining slope and exposure data and the cloud of difference (CoD), derived from a 3D model, we showed that all the steepest southern sides of biancane suffered the most intense erosion. Because splash and sheet erosion triggers sediment displacement, the analysis was also focused on the intensity and direction of WDR. We performed a real field experiment analysing erosion rates over 10 years in relation to daily and hourly wind data (direction and speed), and we found that frequent winds of moderate force, combined with moderate to heavy rainfall, contributed to the observed increase in soil erosion when combined with the insolation effect. Our results show how all the considered factors interact in a complex pattern to control the spatial distribution of erosion. Full article
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